Officer Involved Shooting

Officer Involved Shooting

Issue

Police use of force, particularly police shootings, has been a topic of debate and concern for decades. While some argue that police use of force is necessary to maintain law and order, others believe that it leads to unnecessary harm and trauma. This study examines the impact of a new police policy developed in April 2021 in Houston, aimed at increasing police transparency, accountability, and improving public safety, on the number of police shootings of suspects.

Findings:

  1. The raw Pearson r correlation between the Houston policy change and police shootings was –.148, indicating a small but important relationship between the policy change and reduced police shootings. 
  2. Time series analysis, which accounted for time trends, found that the Houston policy was associated with reduced police shootings concurrently (r = –.185) and out to 10 month-to-month intervals (r = –.107) after the implementation of the policy before becoming less significant.
  3. The implementation of the policy was followed by an overall reduced variance and mean decline in police shootings.
  4. Most officers involved in shootings were male (96.8%) with a mean age of 37.1, while most citizens involved were male (93.4%), with a mean age of 30.6. Black (54.5%) and Hispanic (28.2%) citizens were overrepresented compared to white (14.9%) or Asian (2.6%) citizens.
  5. Most involved citizens were armed, though 21.2% were not, and most were adults (92.1%).

Recommendations:

  1. Policies that increase police transparency and accountability, such as the one implemented in Houston, may help to reduce police shootings and should be pursued by police departments and policymakers.
  2. Other measures that can have a positive impact on reducing police shootings include hiring police with better education (college degrees), improving crisis intervention training, and limiting the power of police unions to obstruct transparency and accountability. 
  3. These policies should be implemented in conjunction with other policies that increase police training, lead to recruitment of better officer trainees, and relate to community policing.
  4. Police departments should make their data available to promote greater transparency and accountability, as demonstrated by the Houston Police Department. 
  5. Further research is needed to fully understand the factors that contribute to police shootings and to develop effective policies focused on prevention. This should include local evaluations of police policies and outcomes to identify effective strategies for reducing police shootings in different locations.