Policing the Police In Their Use of Force

Solutions Journalism Network


Protests over the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, spawned a number of advocacy organizations focusing on limiting police officers’ use of force. Nearly six years later, when Minneapolis police sparked the latest crisis and even larger protests nationwide, with the killing of George Floyd, this new generation of activists was ready with concrete plans. One prominent example: Campaign Zero’s proposed solutions to restrict when police can use deadly force and to strengthen the enforcement of such policies. Its Use of Force Project critiques and tracks the use of such policies in the nation’s largest police departments.

Since Ferguson, journalists have also been on the lookout for approaches showing some success. The stories in this collection come from cities as diverse as Newark, Seattle, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Daytona Beach, Florida. Success in this fraught realm is a relative term, to be sure. While encouraging, none of these stories paint pictures of permanent, unqualified successes. Changing police practices and culture, as these stories attest, is hard, ongoing work. 

journalist spotlight: simone weichselbaum

The Daytona Beach story deals directly with police-culture change. It was reported and written by Simone Weichselbaum, who was the first journalist of color hired by The Marshall Project. She co-founded the diversity and inclusion committee at the criminal-justice-news site, helping to make it what Nieman Lab called “a leader among news organizations in increasing its commitment to diversity.” That commitment started with candor. Weichselbaum co-wrote the first diversity report for her employer, in what has become an annual exercise in transparency, admitting The Marshall Project’s “leadership was entirely white.” Two years later, fully a third of The Marshall Project’s editors were Black or Latinx. That first diversity report made clear the connection between criminal justice reform and the journalism that documents it: “We regard diversity as integral to our overall responsibility, which is to produce the best possible journalism about the U.S. criminal justice system, with its disproportionate impacts on communities of color.”