In recent days I have received a number of media inquiries regarding police-involved shootings. While there are limited data publicly available, some of the data collected in my NIJ-funded research study of police crime in the United States provide context.
Note though, however, that several gun-related variables were not included in the analyses provided in our draft final technical report that was submitted to the NIJ in June 2014, as these specific variables were supplemental variables added to our study for coding and analyses after we commenced work on the NIJ-funded study. In other words, a few specific gun-related variables were not included in my original dissertation study (2009) nor were they included in our grant application to NIJ during 2011. Rather, these specific gun-related variables were added by me to our data collection instrument in 2012. Since that time, graduate research assistants working with me have gone back and completed supplemental coding on these and other supplemental variables for all of the police crime arrest cases during the years 2005-2011 in our database. In the months ahead we will be conducting additional analyses on gun-related cases in our database of police crime arrests and providing that information to the NIJ at the U.S. Department of Justice.
The study identified 6,724 cases in which nonfederal sworn law enforcement officers were arrested during the years 2005 through 2011. The cases involved the arrests of 5,545 individual sworn officers employed by 2,529 state and local law enforcement agencies located in 1,205 counties and independent cities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The findings indicate that nonfederal law enforcement officers were arrested nationwide during 2005-2011 at a rate of 0.72% officers arrested per 1,000 officers, and at a rate of 1.7 officers arrested per 100,000 population nationwide.
Within the aforementioned arrest cases, there are 664 cases involving an officer who was arrested during the years 2005-2011 for a crime where the arrested officer was alleged to have “pulled, pointed, held, or fired a gun and/or threatened someone with a gun.” The 664 arrest cases involving police misuse of firearms involve 518 individual officers (71 officers had more than one arrest case because of having multiple victims and/or crimes occurring on more than one occasion). More than two-thirds of the criminal cases involving misuse of firearms occurred on-duty (70.5%), but many occurred while the officer was off-duty (29.5%). The majority of officers arrested for crimes involving firearms were arrested by a law enforcement agency that is not the officer’s employing agency (71.1%). Most of the cases involving gun-related crimes allegedly committed by officers were prosecuted in state courts (n = 614, 92.5%).
More than three-fourths of the cases where an officer was arrested for a crime involving firearms involved nonsupervisory patrol officers (77.1%), and the majority were employed by municipal police departments (78%) or sheriff’s offices (11.9%) located in 46 states and the District of Columbia. The states with the highest number of cases involving officers arrested for crimes involving firearms are California (n = 60, 9%), New York (n = 47, 7.1%), Louisiana (n = 44, 6.6%), and Tennessee (n = 41, 6.2%). There were 8 criminal cases in Missouri during the years 2005-2011 involving an officer having allegedly “pulled, pointed, held, or fired a gun and/or threatened someone with a gun.”
Officers arrested during 2005-2011 for crimes involving firearms were charged with a variety of different crimes. In the criminal cases where an officer was alleged to have “pulled, pointed, held, or fired a gun and/or threatened someone with a gun,” the most serious offenses charged, among others, include: aggravated assault (n = 241, 36.3%), murder and nonnegligent manslaughter (n = 71, 10.7%), weapons offenses (n = 63, 9.5%), simple assault (n = 54, 8.1%), robbery (n = 53, 8.0%), intimidation / harassment (n = 50, 7.5%), criminal deprivation of civil rights (n = 29, 4.4%), and negligent manslaughter (n = 10, 1.5%).
As to the criminal cases involving an officer arrested for gun-related murder or nonnegligent manslaughter, less than half of those cases involve crimes that occurred when the arrested officer was on-duty (n = 31, 43.7%), although the majority of gun-related cases where an officer was arrested for negligent manslaughter occurred when the arrested officer was on-dury (n = 10, 83.3%).
Conviction data are missing within our database for many of the gun-related police crime arrest cases (n = 273, 41.1%). In those cases where conviction data are available, officers were convicted on at least one criminal offense charged in over two-thirds of the gun-related cases (n = 266, valid 68%). Arrested officers were known to have been held in custody pending trial in about one-fourth of the gun-related arrest cases (n = 116, valid 25.8%).
Some data are available on victim injuries in the gun-related police crime arrest cases: no victim injury (n = 327, valid 55.2%), victim had minor injuries (n = 67, valid 11.3%), victim had serious injuries (n = 100, valid 16.9%), victim died from their injuries (n = 98, valid 16.6%).