Police Killings: Road Map of Research Priorities for Change | RAND

Research Questions

What types of research on killings committed by police officers might help reduce these killings?
What types of data on killings committed by police officers might help reduce these killings?
In this report, RAND Corporation researchers summarize what is currently known about killings committed by police officers in the United States and identify existing evidence about various ways to prevent these killings. A relatively large body of research on these topics exists, but these studies often suffer from methodological shortcomings, largely stemming from the dearth of available data. Recognizing the need for more-rigorous work to guide efforts to reform police — and, more specifically, to reduce police killings — the authors present work focused on the development of a research agenda, or a road map, to reduce police killings. The report, based on an extensive literature review as well as interviews with policing experts, contains a series of recommendations for areas in which research efforts may be most effective in helping inform policymaking and decisionmaking aimed at reducing police killings.

The authors identified six focus areas — foundational issues (such as racial inequities, police culture, and police unions), data and reporting, training, policies, technology, and consequences for officers. Reviewing the priority research topics in each focus area, similar themes emerged, especially around the need for more-extensive and more-systematic data collection and around the use of agency policies to better govern a range of operations related to police violence, such as data collection and reporting and technology.

In this report, the authors use the terms police killings, police violence, and police shootings to describe these types of police behaviors, whether wrongful or not. The authors identify specific instances of these behaviors as misconduct, illegality, wrongful, or excessive when those descriptions apply.
Key Findings

The authors identified research priorities that include the following:

Incorporate a racial lens into studies on reducing police violence and police killings.
Conduct research on aspects of law enforcement that teach and reinforce traditional police culture and norms and on how reform efforts might overcome resistance stemming from culture and norms.
Conduct research on the role of unions in preventing accountability to agency policies and in shaping the outcomes of cases involving police killings.
Explore additional data sources and data that could provide a more reliable representation of a police violence incident, including nonfatal incidents; situational factors surrounding incidents; and the use of technology prior to, during, and after an incident.
Improve data collection on officer consequences after police killings.
Establish meaningful metrics for use across agencies by identifying standard data elements that agencies should collect, and prioritize data accuracy.
Move away from self-reported data on body-worn camera (BWC) use by conducting BWC footage reviews and incorporating alternative data sources for incident reviews.
Add to the overall training evaluation literature to understand the current state of training in the United States and develop a consensus on what training should be in place in all agencies.
Identify the mechanisms by which specific policies reduce police violence, and identify what combination of policies is most effective at reducing police violence.
Undertake research on the overall effects of using other technologies on lethal force.
Study the role of prosecutors in shaping the outcomes of cases involving police killings.
— Read on www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1525-1.html

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