A National Survey of Police Officer-Involved Firearm Shootings

Funded by the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research, NORC at the University of Chicago and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) will conduct a national organizational survey of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to estimate the agency aggregated numbers of the past 10 years of police officer-involved shootings – including both officers shooting at civilians and officers being shot or shot at – and demographic, situational, agency, and community factors associated with these shootings.

We proposed three research questions:

  1. How many civilians did police officers shoot with a firearm and how many police officers were shot at in the past ten years, total and by citizen and officer demographics and situational factors?
  2. To what extent are agency characteristics, culture, practices and training related to the number/rate of officer-involved shootings?
  3. Are community factors, such as local gun laws and restrictions and gun violence rates related to agency culture, policing practices and required training and to the number/rate of officer-involved shootings?

RQ2 and RQ3 will be examined in terms of both overall officer-involved shootings and broken down by officer and citizen demographics and situational factors, separately for (a) officers shooting civilians and (b) officers being shot at.

Using a stratified sample design, we will randomly draw a nationally representative sample of 1,500 LEAs, and invite them to participate in an online survey. With an estimated 70% response rate, we expect at least 1,000 LEAs will complete the survey. The sample will be weighted to be representative of all state/local LEAs in the U.S., adjusting for non-response. We will also select 30 agencies to conduct in-depth interviews with command staff to provide additional context for our survey data. Latent class analysis and structure equation models will be conducted to describe the patterns of officer-involved shootings and the effect of various factors on the number/rate of officer-involved shootings.

This study addresses two important gaps: First, despite the deeply-rooted concerns regarding officer use of deadly force and officers' safety, there is a lack of data-driven guidance on mechanisms to reduce officer-involved shootings. Media, federal and survey data undercount officer-involved shootings and contain a limited number of community, agency and situational correlates. Second, despite research demonstrating the correlation between adverse community characteristics and officer-involved shootings, we have limited national data on this issue. Study results will inform practical recommendations on policies and protocols to ameliorate the number of officer-involved shootings.

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