New online database sheds light on police use of lethal force

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., (WCIA) — A researcher said the public should know that the number of police officers involved in lethal force statewide is something the public should know. Now, his research aims to fill in the gaps, while bringing transparency to the community.

It is part of the new SPOTLITE online database. It was launched on Friday and stands for “Systematic Police Oversight through a Lethal Force Incident Tracking Environment”.

Researchers from the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research at the U of I Research Park have been working there for five years.

This sheds light on the number of times police in Illinois used lethal force between 2014 and 2021. The database lists every time police used firearms, whether lethal or not. As well as any other use of force ending in death.

The website breaks down the results by county. Statewide, they confirmed 694 uses of lethal force. 62% of those incidents occurred in Cook County.

In central Illinois, SPOTLITE recorded 7 in Champaign County, 6 in Vermilion County, 6 in Macon County, and 4 in Sangamon County.

Scott Althaus, director of the Cline Center, said he wanted to help find answers. So far, he said SPOTLITE has found more than twice as many police uses of lethal force as previously recorded by the state.

“Our goal has been to make this data publicly available as soon as possible so that communities, researchers and law enforcement across the state can begin using this information to help us better understand what is happening,” Altaus said.

He said SPOTLITE will help police keep accurate records and show them when change is needed or when reform is working.

“We hope to complete the informative picture of what happens in each of these incidents in a way that will improve officer safety, inform best practices in use of force policies, and also improve the effectiveness of remediation programs. training designed to assist the law. law enforcement to exercise judgment appropriately in these encounters,” Althaus said.

He said it would also help community members, showing them how and when deadly force is used. As well as tracking the race and ethnicity of those involved.

To learn more about the database, visit the Cline Center website.