SPOTLITE: Shedding Light on Police Use of Lethal Force in the United States

Welcome to an eye-opening exploration of the SPOTLITE project, a groundbreaking initiative that seeks to enhance police accountability and reshape public perception of law enforcement in the United States. Led by a team of experts from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, including myself, Jessica Miller, we have expanded our statewide registry on the use of lethal force by police officers in Illinois to encompass national data. Our project, SPOTLITE, has meticulously identified over 23,000 incidents of police use of lethal force across the United States from 2014 to 2021, shedding light on a critical issue that demands our attention.

The Need for Comprehensive Data on Police Use of Lethal Force

SPOTLITE: Shedding Light on Police Use of Lethal Force in the United States - 1689739579

Law enforcement agencies play a crucial role in maintaining public safety, but the use of lethal force by police officers has raised concerns and sparked nationwide debates. To address these issues effectively, it is essential to have comprehensive and reliable data on police use of lethal force. This data enables us to identify trends, patterns, and areas of concern, and it serves as a foundation for evidence-based policy reforms.

However, until the inception of the SPOTLITE project, there was a significant lack of comprehensive data on police use of lethal force in the United States. Existing data sources were fragmented, incomplete, and often unreliable. As researchers, we recognized the urgent need to bridge this data gap and provide accurate information to empower communities and facilitate informed conversations about police accountability.

Introducing the SPOTLITE Project

The SPOTLITE project, led by the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research and a team of experts from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, aims to address the dearth of reliable data on police use of lethal force. Our interdisciplinary team, including myself, Jessica Miller, has been working tirelessly since 2017 to compile a comprehensive database that goes beyond the boundaries of Illinois and encompasses national data.

Through meticulous research, we have identified over 23,000 incidents of police use of lethal force in the United States from 2014 to 2021. This includes incidents involving firearms as well as other uses of force resulting in death. Our database provides a valuable resource for understanding the scope and magnitude of this issue and serves as a foundation for evidence-based reforms.

Alarming Trends: Increase in Police Use of Lethal Force

Upon analyzing the data from 2014 to 2021, we made a startling discovery. The number of incidents involving police use of lethal force has been steadily increasing nationwide. In 2014, there were 2,443 incidents, and by 2021, that number had risen to 3,474 incidents, representing a significant 42% increase.

Further analysis revealed that these incidents were not evenly distributed across the country. In fact, 28% of all counties in the United States reported zero incidents of police use of lethal force, while a staggering 50% of all incidents occurred in just 117 counties. These findings highlight the need for targeted reforms and interventions in specific regions to address the issue effectively.

Unveiling Illinois-Specific Data

In addition to the national data, the SPOTLITE project has also focused on providing more accurate information on police-involved incidents in the state of Illinois. Last year, our research identified more than twice as many incidents as previously reported by the Illinois State Police, highlighting the limitations of existing data sources.

Our ongoing efforts involve documenting incidents up to the present day and providing additional details, such as injuries or fatalities reported, the law enforcement agencies involved, and the racial characteristics of the civilians involved. This comprehensive data enables us to gain deeper insights into the specific dynamics of police use of lethal force in Illinois and supports evidence-based policy recommendations.

Empowering Communities for Change

The SPOTLITE project is driven by a nonpartisan and nonadvocacy approach. Our primary goal is to provide high-quality data that empowers communities to conduct their own research and engage in meaningful conversations about police accountability. By shedding light on the realities of police use of lethal force, we aim to bridge the gap between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

Through the SPOTLITE project, we hope to contribute to the ongoing efforts for police reform and foster a better understanding of the challenges faced by both law enforcement and the communities they protect. By promoting evidence-based reforms and informed conversations, we can work towards a future where police accountability is strengthened, public trust is rebuilt, and the safety and well-being of all individuals are prioritized.