Philly Police Publish Data on Officer-Involved Shootings, Advisory Commission Issues Memo Regarding BB Gun Incidents


By Kenneth Lipp

The Philadelphia Police Department has posted to its website a variety of data regarding Officer-Involved Shootings (OIS) in its jurisdiction, for the 5-year period 2007-2013. The posting includes visualizations as well as narratives describing gun incidents involving police officers, from on-duty shoot-outs with determined felons to personal arguments that devolve into gunplay involving off-duty cops.

According the Philly Police website: “An officer involved shooting (OIS) is the discharge of a firearm, whether accidental or intentional, by a police officer, whether on or off duty.  For the purposes of this posting, an officer involved shooting will only refer to the instances in which an officer discharged a firearm at a person.”

The police website also presents data about general and violent crime trends, assaults against officers, and other geographic data in map and table form.

Included on the website is a long list with descriptions of incidents. An example:

On Saturday, 1/11/14, at approximately 9:32 P.M., uniformed officers, in a marked police vehicle, observed a male adjusting his waistband while standing with a group of people in front of a store, located in the 2800 block of Tasker Street. The officers summoned the male to their police vehicle, at which time the offender fled on foot to the 1600 block of S. Dover Street. One of the officers pursued the offender on foot and observed him remove a handgun from his waistband as he ran. The officer ordered the offender to drop the weapon. The offender did not comply, at which point the officer discharged his weapon, striking the offender. The offender dropped his weapon, but continued to run. The offender was apprehended in the 1700 block of S. 29th Street without further incident.
The offender’s .380 caliber weapon, loaded with eight live rounds, was recovered at the scene.


Google map data via Kelvyn Anderson

Not all of the incidents are from the line-of-duty. For instance, this incident last winter when an out of uniform officer discharged his firearm in a dispute that allegedly began after an “offender’s” inappropriate remarks toward the officer’s girlfriend:

On Saturday, 11/02/13, at approximately 11:47 P.M., an off-duty officer in civilian attire became involved in a verbal argument with an unknown male while leaving a property in the 6300 block of Chew Avenue. On-duty, uniformed officers observed the verbal argument and stopped to investigate. The off-duty officer informed the on-duty officers that the male had made inappropriate remarks toward his girlfriend. The on-duty officers separated the arguing parties and sent them on their separate ways; however, a short while later the male and the off-duty officer continued their argument and a physical encounter ensued. The off-duty officer observed the offender with a pair of brass knuckles, so he drew his weapon. The offender reached for the off-duty officer’s weapon and the off-duty officer discharged his weapon, missing the offender. Uniformed officers responded to the gunshot. The off-duty officer sustained some facial injuries, but refused medical attention.
There were no injuries as a result of this discharge incident.
Kelvyn Anderson, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, has scraped the website for its data and compiled it into a single , searchable PDF document.  Kelvyn has also started to construct a map for police-involved shooting incidents with department-provided descriptions and other data.
While the reports provide a new insight into police officers’ use of their weapons and generally of police-civilian relations in the city, Anderson notes that the data lacks important detail needed to take remedial steps to educate the public and reduce unnecessary harm.
Anderson was at the City Council Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday, where his agency presented a memo regarding shooting incidents involving subjects carrying BB guns, with data gleaned from the department’s website (Anderson created a single document that his team was able to then search to cross-reference incidents). He was able to present the committee with concrete information about the circumstances surrounding shootings where subjects had guns without firing pins, as an example of how data made accessible through his indexing it into a single document can be used to discover real trends within the statistics – vital, he says, to taking corrective action where it is warranted.
“It highlights the necessity of making this information not just available, but accessible.”


Anderson said that still missing and critical is information about disciplinary action and administrative decision-making, such as the findings of the Firearms Review Board.
The PPD is currently undergoing a collaborative review of Officer-Involved Shootings in cooperation with the US Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office. The review, asked for by PPD Commissioner Ramsey in 2013 after the 125th police-involved shooting in the city in 5 years, is nearing conclusion.


The Declaration spoke to George Fachner, a research scientist with CNA Corporation, the independent consulting firm conducting the COPS review, about the data posted to the Philly Police site. Says Fachner,  “I think it’s a step in the right direction for the department. Keep in mind that this is a relatively new practice for police departments across the country. While most still do not have this kind of transparency on this issue, I expect it to become more and more prevalent in the coming years.”

About Kenneth Lipp

Kenneth is a writer and researcher. He’s from Alabama, and will not apologize for it. He moved to Pennsylvania in 2012, but has been in love with Philadelphia since a late-night stroll down Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum in July of 2011 with the love of his life. He is interested in telling Philadelphia’s dynamic and absolutely unique stories with the zeal of a constantly enamored newcomer. Kenneth is also passionate about government transparency and protection of whistleblowers, most notably PFC Chelsea Manning. His research and reporting on law enforcement and surveillance have been featured in various publications, including Rolling Stone (Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters) and Popular Science (Boston Tested Crowd-Watching Software That Catalogues People's Skin Color). His training is in both genetics and history and he likes the joke about being a helicase and unzipping your “genes.” He’s driven to know, and thinks you can handle, the truth. Follow him on Twitter @kennethlipp.

There are 5 comments

  1. Maureen Coffey

    There have been a lot of studies published and cited since the Ferguson riots that point all in one direction: if officers carried body cameras not only will officer-induced violence be reduced by two thirds, but even more astonishingly, complaints from the public fell by over 80%. Like the introduction of videotaping police interrogations there is room of improvement that benefits both sides.


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