Sources of information about deadly force incidents


I’ve been interested in gunfight analysis since I was a teenager. My Dad had a Guns and Blammo magazine with an article about the shootout between the Hamer posse and Bonnie and Clyde. Once I read it, I was hooked.

Many people like to ‘wargame’ situations that could happen to them and I am no different. However, I rarely dream up scenarios for playing ‘what if’ mental games unless I’m asleep and actually dreaming. There are several forums where people think them up but I prefer to look at real incidents. In many cases, truth is stranger than fiction.

There are several websites that aggregate various news reports, such as GunsSaveLives. I read The Armed Citizen column in the NRA Journals every month. Some people have commented that the NRA ‘cherry picks’ the reports they include in The Armed Citizen but, through independent research, I have found it largely representative of the overall activities of Armed Citizens.

The problem with news reports is that they don’t usually go into much depth about the specifics of the incidents. Frequently, the information has gaping holes in it or is wrong. A much better source is the online records of police deadly force incidents. A number of larger departments put all their Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) on their website. The level of detail varies but almost all of them give more than a news article. When looking for information that’s pertinent to me, I focus on the off-duty OIS because off-duty officer incidents have many situational and equipment parallels to an armed citizen.

The oldest source of information is the annual FBI Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report. The Bureau has been producing the report for many years. Back issues since 1996 of LEOKA are available online. As I pointed out in an article for Personal Defense Network, when using LEOKA, we have to be careful how we interpret the data. The part I find most useful is the Summaries of Officers Feloniously Killed. Instead of data tables, the Summaries provide a narrative about the circumstances of each officer’s death. It’s difficult reading, emotionally, but as I’ve told every Law Enforcement class I’ve taught, “If you haven’t read the Summaries, you haven’t read the report.”

One of my favorite sources is the Los Angeles Police Department Categorical Use Of Force reports. The LAPD Board Of Police Commissioners’ webpage has a detailed summary of every use of deadly force by LAPD officers since 2005. They are meticulously explained and analyzed with the Board’s findings at the end. There are many off duty incidents included in the database. Often, we hear the saying that “data is not the plural of anecdote.” However, when we have access to all the anecdotes, I think that becomes a source for evidence. The BOPC evaluates LAPD officers on three different areas; tactics, drawing/exhibiting, and use of force.

The Chicago Police Department Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) publishes an online summary of all OIS by Chicago Police Officers. The IPRA reports are also very detailed. It issues a finding only regarding the use of deadly force by the officer(s).

Late in 2013, the Philadelphia Police also began publishing summaries on each OIS. These are not as detailed as those from Los Angeles and Chicago but still contain useful information.

Another source of information is the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Office of Internal Oversight. The online reports provided by LVMPD are very detailed. They contain District Attorney Decisions, Force Investigation Team Reports, and Office of Internal Oversight Reviews.

A colleague of mine, John Hearne, coined the term “Ninjas coming from the ceiling.” When I read or hear of what some people are concerned about, that term usually comes to mind. I think it’s much more interesting and useful to think about what really does happen and then wargame that.

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