How we did it
How many people do police shoot in San Bernardino? Who is shot by law enforcement? What circumstances lead to shootings?
These are questions that government data can’t answer.
That’s why KPCC and The San Bernardino Sun built a database tracking police shootings in San Bernardino County from 2010 through 2015, providing an unprecedented examination of police shootings in the county.
To construct our database and find answers to our questions, we combed through letters written by the San Bernardino County District Attorney. The D.A. investigates every shooting in which an officer’s gunfire strikes a person, to determine if criminal charges are warranted. Since it has been more than a decade since an on-duty officer has been charged in connection with a shooting in San Bernardino County, these letters represent a comprehensive record of shootings in the county in which investigations are closed. Some cases from the review period remain open.
To turn hundreds pages of memos into a database, reporters at KPCC and The Sun reviewed each letter and entered data on dozens of fields relating to suspects, officers and circumstances in shootings. A second journalist double-checked every one of the 102 entries.
We didn’t review shootings that involved off-duty officers, or D.A. reviews of suspects who died in custody from causes other than a shooting—only on-duty shootings.
We added additional information from several sources, including data on race and ethnicity from the San Bernardino County Coroner, data on police settlements from several San Bernardino County municipalities, and public health data from the California Department of Public Health.
For our story on drugs and alcohol, we only considered toxicology reports or a suspect’s own admission of use to be a sign of drug or alcohol use. We considered bystanders and suspects with toy or replica firearms to be neither armed nor unarmed.
The effort extends KPCC’s Officer Involved investigation, which began with Los Angeles County in 2015 with a first-of-its-kind database of police shootings from 2010 to 2014, using the same methodology.
Those stories revealed to the public for the first time how many people were shot by officers in Los Angeles County — at least 375 — and revealed that 25 percent of people shot by police in Los Angeles County were unarmed, that 120 people who were mentally ill or showed signs of substance use were shot after failing to follow commands, and that black people were shot at three times their proportion of the population. You can find the Los Angeles stories here.