Using Crowd-Sourced Data to Explore Police-Related-Deaths in the United States (2000–2017): The Case of Fatal Encounters

Brian K. Finch , University of Southern California
Audrey N. Beck, San Diego State University
Kyla Thomas, University of Southern California
Brian Burghart, University of Southern California
David Klinger, UM-SL
Richard Johnson, Dolan Consulting

We evaluated the Fatal Encounters (FE) database as an open-source surveillance system for tracking police-related deaths (PRDs) and compared it with official data sources. Methods. We compared the completeness of FE data to several known government sources of police-related deaths and police homicide data. FE collected data on n=23,578 PRDs from 2000-2017. Preliminary analyses suggest near comprehensive coverage. Advantages of the FE data include circumstance of death specificity, incident geo-locations, identification of involved police-agencies, and near immediate availability of data. Disadvantages include a high rate of missingness for decedent race/ethnicity, potentially higher rates of missing incidents in older data, and the exclusion of more comprehensive police use-of-force and nonlethal use-of-force data—a critique applicable to nearly all extant data sets. FE is the most comprehensive collection of PRDs in the United States and is the most likely source for historical comparisons and police-department level analyses of the causes of PRDs.

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 Presented in Session 219. Statistical Advances in High Resolution Modeling for Health and Mortality Outcomes