Cops and courts
If you are on the cops and court beat, you'll want this story pack. Includes databases from the FBI, and stories and tipsheets from some of the best investigators.
Policing the police: Uncovering law enforcement
Get tips on how to ask questions about informants, search warrants and seizures, disciplinary actions, and lawsuits so that you can police the police in your community.
How to find a Serial Killer
"If you work in a medium- to large-size city, the odds are very good that there are unsolved serial killings in your community." Hargrove gives quick tips on how to search for unsolved murders.
Strategies for Covering the Police Beat and Doing Quick Enterprise Stories
Get tips from Thompson, an IRE award winning reporter, that include getting your hands on police documents(blank ones are important too), riding along with officers on duty, and acquiring the best sources.
(More than 5) Databases for criminal justice reporting
Roberts discusses the "data-rich" nature of the criminal justice beat, identifying several key databases for reporters. Examples include 911 response data, jail bookings, jury selection transcripts, National Corrections Reporting program and many more
Check your sources: Figuring out what criminal justice data and documents really say
Gabrielson's tipsheet addresses identifying the shortcomings in data - specifically criminal justice data. Gabrielson points out common mistakes made when using the data, and how to avoid them.
Criminal justice investigations: tips from unexpected people and documents
This tipsheet touches on unexpected people and documents in criminal justice reporting. "Rivalries and jealousies open the door to tips and document leaks for well-positioned reporters." Diedrich details a number of these type of sources and materials.
How to investigate police crime reporting and statistics: a cookbook
This tipsheet is a great primer for anyone covering cops and crime and utilizing the FBI's Uniform Crime Report(UCR). Thompson and Eiserer identify the preliminary legwork to do so your ready to cover stories as they arise.
Cracking the Justice System
McCoy and Purcell discuss the computer-assisted work they did in reporting their series "Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied." They explain the data you should gather when reporting on the courts, and the stories you can find within those numbers.
The Keys to the Courthouse
The author offers tips for developing the cops and courts beat. He suggests spending a lot of time at the court house and getting to know key players, like judges, baliffs, and law clerks. Burstein also discusses documents like search warrants and probable cause affidavits which are stored at the court house and could lead to good stoy ideas. Finally, the tipsheet includes some story ideas that go beyond the criminal trials one expects from a courts reporter.
Looking for Court Cases
Lopez outlines ways to find court cases in both state and federal courts. Also he provides links to helpful Web sites.
Schripps Howard News Service has conducted the most complete accounting ever made of homicide victims in the United States. Aggressive use of state and local Freedom of Information laws allowed the wire service to assemble a database of 525,742 homicides, including records of 15,322 killings never reported to the FBI. The "Murder Mysteries" project calculated the homicide clearance rate for every police department in the U.S., prompting four departments to promise reforms. Scripps also developed an algorithm that identified 161 suspicious clusters of unsolved homicides involving women of similar age killed through similar means. Authorities in Gary, Ind., and Youngstown, Ohio, Launched new investigations into possible serial murder in their communities as a result of this project.
NYPD: Fighting Crime at All Costs
WABC closely examined the aggressive policing policies of the NY Police Department. A tip from an officer regarding the use of quotas had turned into "a relentless pursuit of arrests and summonses in the city's minority communities that he claimed led to the write up of innocent people."
WREG uncovered that sexual assault victims in Memphis weren't being properly handled within the system. A failure to process rape kits made it more difficult to bring the victims' attackers to justice. Their investigation found as few at 6% of the rape kits were being processed. Since the story ran, sweeping changes were announced by the City of Memphis and over 2000 backlogged rape kits have been processed as a result.
The Other Side of Mercy
"On Nov. 29, 2009, Maurice Clemmons shot and killed four Lakewood police officers in a Pierce County coffee shop, committing one of the worst crimes in the history of the Pacific Northwest. "The Other Side of Mercy" chronicles Clemmons' criminal history, exposing a variety of system breakdowns that set the stage for this shocking ambush."
City Rape Statistics Questioned
The Sun's investigation found that nearly a third of rapes reported in the city were being deemed "untrue or baseless" by detectives. The paper uncovered examples of women being grilled by detectives until they recanted their stories; and in many case reports never made it from street patrol cops to the detectives.
The Hidden Life of Guns
The investigation details the way guns move through society, from retail sales to street crimes. The Post set out to break the secrecy imposed by Congress and an examination of how gunes are used in crimes. Their investigation included creating a database of more than 35,000 guns traced to crimes; a comprehensive database of 511 police officers killed by firearms; lists from confidential sources of the top 12 gun dealers who have sold the most weapons trace from Mexican crime scenes over the past two years.
Probate Court: A Troubled System
The investigation exposed a corrupt system within Arizona's probate courts that permitted lawyers and for-profit fiduciary businesses to take advantage of the welfare of vulnerable adults. The Arizona Republic found that in many cases, lawyers appointed to protect the welfare of incapacitated adults were actually paying themselves enormous fees out of their assets of these individuals. Judges, state regulators, and social service agencies violated court orders, disregarded procedure, and failed to keep this from happening.
"Court ignores NY rules on filing documents"
Public access to court documents has been hampered in some areas of New York state. Instead of submitting documents to be formally filed, lawyers passed them "directly to judges' chambers." Consequently, the files never made it to the proper place to be accessible to the public.
Off Duty Cops
For many years, abusive and illegal activity by officers of the Chicago Police Department has gone largely unchecked. This story highlighted two recent cases in which Chicagoans were beaten by off-duty cops, yet the "wall of silence" protected those officers until security camera videos of the events led to a public outcry. The story tried to show that these were not isolated incidents but were actually typical of the culture of the Chicago PD.
Broken Families, Broken Court
The series exposed systemic problems in the operation of California Juvenile Dependency Courts, the nation's largest court system overseeing children in foster care.
The Uniform Crime Reports, comprised of six databases, includes crime information reported to the FBI by law enforcement agencies around the country. Most of the data consist of the "index" crimes: murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor-vehicle theft and arson. These crimes, with the exception of arson, were chosen in 1929 to serve as an index for gauging fluctuations in the overall volume and rate of crime. Arson was added by Congressional mandate in 1979.
During the early planning of the program, it was recognized that the differences among criminal codes precluded a mere aggregation of state statistics to arrive at a national total. Further, because of the variances in punishment for the same offenses in different state codes, no distinction between felony and misdemeanor crimes was possible.
All databases in the Uniform Crime Reports, except the Supplemental Homicide Report (SHR), are arranged by police reporting agencies. Occurrences are presented as aggregates. The data is broken down by month. All the databases provide the region, state, county, city, metropolitan statistical area (MSA) and reporting agency identifier.
Contact the database library if you are interested in a state slice, or a single database (such as the SHR).