Data Sources on Injuries Caused By Law Enforcement
The Law Enforcement Epidemiology Project at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health aims to provide a framework for a comprehensive surveillance system based on existing public health data sources that can be implemented in nearly all U.S. states immediately to augment police reports and Bureau of Justice Statistics data on civilians injured by law enforcement. We identify useful data sources, describe their strengths and limitations, data dictionaries and SAS code for identifying cases.
State and Local Level Data Heading link
We identify useful data sources, describe their strengths and limitations, data dictionaries and SAS code for identifying cases. Click on each tab to view different resources:
Prehospital Ambulance Runs
The EMS prehospital run data includes ambulance run reports for every emergency prehospital transport, interhospital transport or refusal of care incident for every participating vehicle service provider. The EMS database typically includes the following variables: total call time, mode of transport, emergency level of transport (Non-Emergent, Downgraded-No Lights/Sirens, Upgraded-L/S, Emergent-L/S), type of extrication used, factors that delayed in EMS access or detection, protective equipment in car and passenger location in vehicle for motor vehicle crashes, patient status information (body part injured, pupil dilation, pulse, blood pressure, Glasgow coma score, skin temperature, respiratory rate, lung sounds, loss of consciousness, shock, cardiac arrest, drugs or alcohol, allergies, symptoms, and medical history), and treatment provided in the field. Some states provide incident location information.
Participating jurisdictions and agencies varies by State and locality. Typically municipal fire departments participate along with volunteer and private ambulance services. Most states conform with national coding standards set by NEMSIS which provides a level of consistency across states and jurisdictions.
- State level data can be acquired from your state department of public health.
- Local county, municipal and agency level data can be acquired by contacting the local department of public health, municipal fire department or private ambulance agency.
Police Crash Reports
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) obtains police accident reports (PARs) from state Departments of Transportation. A PAR is completed by police officers at a motor vehicle traffic crash scene and contains information describing pre-crash characteristics, crash phase elements and crash outcomes. The data may be answered by the officer using evidence found at the scene and by interviewing participants and witnesses. Information may vary by state because each state has different data collection and reporting standards. The dataset captures motor vehicle collisions involving police vehicles and other first responders including collisions in intersections, when using lights and sirens, involving pursuit or high speeds.
The common file structure organizes information contained on the state PARs into three files:
- Crash file: contains general crash characteristics describing the environmental and roadway conditions at the time of the crash.
- Vehicle file: contains information describing the vehicles involved in the crash. This file also includes some driver characteristics.
- Person file: contains information describing the characteristics of the drivers, passengers, pedestrians, pedalcyclists and other non–motorists involved in the crash.
To acquire data in your state or locality
- State level data can be acquired from your state Department of Transportation. Generally, your state DOT representative must approve your request before submitting it to the federal office.
- Local county, municipal and agency level data can be acquired by contacting the local department of public health or municipal police department.
Hospital Outpatient and Inpatient Data
Hospital outpatient and inpatient data is also known as “hospital discharge data” or “CompData”. The outpatient database includes all patients treated in emergency rooms for less than 24 hours who were not admitted to the hospital. The inpatient database includes all patients treated for 24 hours or more for any medical reason. Both databases include variables on patient demographics (age, gender, race/ethnicity), exposure (mechanism of injury), health outcomes (diagnoses, hospital procedures, discharge status), and economics (hospital charges, payer source).
Hospital outpatient and inpatient data are revised on an ongoing basis. Final counts are likely to take more than a year after the end of a calendar year. Revised numbers typically involve only a small fraction of the overall reported numbers in any given year.
The percent of hospitals participating in a state system varies. In Illinois, nearly all inpatient cases are captured in the system providing a census of annual hospitalizations. You should check with your state manager to confirm the percent of patients/visits captured. Most states conform with national coding standards which provides a level of consistency across states and jurisdictions.
- State level data can be acquired from your state department of public health.
- Facility level information may be obtained by contacting the Director of Medical Records.
Death records from local coroners or state vital records
Death records use ICD-10 coding which includes codes for deaths caused while in custody or during actions by law enforcement. Death records typically include information on date and time of death, demographics of the decedent including race and ethnicity, decedent residence location, cause and manner of death, contributing causes, and incident location including geolocation. If the data is compiled by a medical examiner, it will typically be completed by a forensic pathologist.
However, the quality and the level of detail provided on vital records/death certificates will vary by state and jurisdiction. Death certificates must conform to national standards but the level of training of those completing the death certificates and the practices of each agency varies.
- State level data can be acquired from your state Department of Public Health vital records office.
- Local county, municipal and agency level data can be acquired by contacting the local department of public health or local medical examiner’s office.
Newspaper and other media sources
Media reports capture information about isolated incidents while some media outlets and tools provide aggregated reports. Typically a media report will provide details on the civilian injured, the officers involved, method of injury, were witnesses present, was the civilian reportedly armed, the level of medical care required, and a general description of the circumstances involved.
Google news allows users to set up news alerts as does other news services. Lexis/Nexis, which requires a license, allows users to search reports by major media outlets. In addition, there are various media outlets that have aggregated data on civilian injuries, but most focus only on firearm related deaths which represent the majority of all fatal injuries but not all of them.
- Set up a news alert using a news services (e.g. Google news).
- Lexis/Nexis with a paid license or through your local University or city library.
- Check your local major newspapers. There research teams may have conducted an analysis.
Court Records and Independent Investigations
Court records are part of the public record and can provide some data on the cost to taxpayers resulting from police misconduct. More and more states, counties and municipalities are providing electronic access to court records. In addition, different states and jurisdictions provide aggregated data on civil court decisions and settlements related to police misconduct.
These data include case numbers, date of decision, disposition, police involvement, payee, total financial amount, primary cause including excessive force, police misconduct, false arrest, unlawful search and seizure, motor vehicle collisions, squad accidents, and other violations of civil rights.
In addition, find your local or state Independent Police Review Authority or municipal police Internal Affairs department. Your local review authority may have a different name such as “civilian office of accountability”, “review board” or “independent oversite committee”. The Board/Authority/Office or Internal Affairs will often publish investigations on police related deaths and investigations into police misconduct. Court data can be found through the following sources:
- State, county or municipal court records
- City Clerk’s Office
- Department of Law or Legal Affairs at the state, county or local level.
- Lexis/Nexis CourtLink with a paid license or through your local University or city library.
- Thomson Reuters Westlaw
- Local newspapers may have conducted an analysis.
- Your local or state Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA)
- Your local municipal police Bureau of Internal Affairs