A new analysis of a decade of shootings by St. Louis police could become the template for a national reporting model widely sought in the wake of controversies in Ferguson, Cleveland and elsewhere, its researchers tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. What it tells the public can help frame the debate on police use of force, breaking down details of the circumstances and demographics. In the decade studied, police shootings were not necessarily associated with the most violent areas, or the prevailing race of the neighborhood. What it tells law enforcement leaders could lead to more effective changes in policies or training, for example, that St. Louis officers missed the people they were shooting at in half the encounters.
With public impatience growing about police use of force, the study's methodology mines layers of information not broadly available, say University of Missouri-St. Louis researchers David Klinger, Richard Rosenfeld, Dan Isom and Mike Deckard. With no official national tally, news media efforts have tried to collect police shooting data. They have been focused solely on fatalities, a rare outcome that does not provide an accurate picture of the issue, the criminologists said. Focusing only on deaths effectively looks at marksmanship, Klinger noted, as one department might fire more often than another one that kills more people. Knowing more, police might find that one type of weapon or ammunition is more effective than another. Or whether the race of an officer and target plays a role. Or whether recruits from a particular academy class shoot more often.