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Newspaper Accounts of Lawsuits Involving the Police: An Alternative Data Source?

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime & Justice Volume: 29 Issue: 2 Dated: 2006 Pages: 1-23
Carol A. Archbold
Date Published
23 pages
This article examines the use of newspaper articles as an alternative data source to learn more about litigation involving the police.
The analysis revealed that newspaper articles could provide specific details about lawsuits filed against police that other data sources used in previous studies did not provide. For example, existing literature on police-involved litigation does not identify the person(s) that are responsible for filing lawsuits; it does not provide any description of the events leading up to lawsuits being filed; and it does not identify any changes that are made to the accountability of police officers and police agencies as a result of litigation. Newspaper articles are able to provide useful information on all three of these important issues. The major strength of using newspaper articles as a data source is the ease of accessibility researchers have to the data source. Newspapers also make longitudinal studies possible. However, there are some weaknesses associated with using newspaper articles to study police-involved litigation. One such identified weakness is that one cannot be certain that the reporting of police-involved litigation by newspapers accurately reflects the current state of policing litigation in the United States. There has been considerable research conducted on lawsuits involving the police in the last two decades. However, the literature does not fully address some of the main issues. The gap in the literature seems to be in part a result of the types of data used. Utilizing the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and the Chicago Sun Times from 1993 to 2003, this study explored the utility of newspaper articles as a data source to learn more about litigation involving the police. Tables, references