Two new efforts to track fatal police shootings echo Palm Beach Post analysis

The recent national uproar over police shootings has highlighted a gap in understanding the events: No government agency reliably tracks police shootings nationally.

But the Washington Post and The Guardian have started tracking fatal shootings by police since the beginning of the year.

Both, using crowdsourcing and searching the internet, found that roughly 400 people have been shot and killed by officers around the country this year.

They also analyzed the shootings, and their findings were largely in line with what The Palm Beach Post found in its 2015 investigation into police shootings by PBSO.

For example:

  • For minorities, roughly a third were unarmed.
  • The percentage of people armed with potentially lethal objects was more than 80 percent (Washington Post) and 76 percent (Palm Beach Post).
  • The most common weapon a suspect was unarmed with was a gun – 57 percent in the Washington Post analysis and 32 percent for PBSO. That difference could be attributed to methodology. The Washington Post tracked only fatal shootings, while the Palm Beach Post tracked all shootings.

The national efforts, while helpful, also highlight the need for mandatory reporting of police shootings. For example, comparing this year’s number to previous years isn’t possible. And fatal police shootings account for only a third of all shootings.

This week two Democratic senators announced they would introduce a bill requiring police departments to report the incidents to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Palm Beach Post maintains a searchable database of all police shootings in Palm Beach County, regardless of whether someone died, here.

Public may learn what happened to $110,000 in mystery election money

A campaign mystery documented last month by The Palm Beach Post is now the subject of a complaint to the Florida Elections Commission.

What happened to $110,000 paid by a campaign committee run by a Broward County political operative to a company run by that same political operative is the subject of a referral from the Florida Division of Elections to the elections commission, which has the power to investigate elections shenanigans.

The Post linked the money to the Kimberly Mitchell campaign for West Palm Beach mayor. But Amy Rose, the woman who runs the committee and whose Broward company received the money, stands to be the one answering questions about the where the money went — if the commission staff finds legal sufficiency to proceed with an investigation.

The complaint did not come from a citizen, who lacking knowledge would not have had enough information to spark a probe. Instead, the Division of Elections, part of the Florida Department of State, has referred “possible reporting violations” involving the committee, Floridians for Accountability, to the elections commission, spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice told The Post.

The Post could not get Rose on the phone, despite daily phone calls, before its story ran on May 17. The story pointed out that Rose and her company, Win on the Ground Consulting, played no visible role in Mitchell’s campaign. The campaign itself made no payments to Rose’s company for services.

Yet, several big donors with ties to Mitchell consultant Richard Pinsky made contributions to Rose’s Tallahassee-based committee, an electioneering communications organization allowed to coordinate with campaigns but not able to solicit votes for a specific candidate.

In March, the month of the election, the committee received $110,250 in contributions and paid out $110,250, all to Rose’s company. It said the money went for consulting services.

Earlier, it had gotten $52,000 from Mitchell-linked contributors and paid out $6,000 of it. However, during that period, Win on the Ground, Rose’s company, gave $14,000 of its own money to two neighborhood committees backing Mitchell.

The nine-member election commission, appointed by the governor, does not comment on investigations until, meeting in secret, it determines whether there’s probable cause for a hearing. That usually takes months. Investigations are made public whether or not probable cause is found. The decision on the first step, legal sufficiency, is not made public.

What police want you to know when you’re stopped

During Saturday’s police symposium, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Terrence Carn and Capt. Jeffery Lindskoog held a question-and-answer session about how to interact with police during traffic stops. It was a blunt conversation that showed the officer’s perspective. Lindskoog, for example, said he personally didn’t want to give people traffic tickets because he knows the fees are high.

“Traffic fines in Florida have gotten so ridiculous, truly ridiculous, that I truly feel guilty striking a ticket for someone because the fine is onerous,” Lindskoog said.

For the best chance to avoid getting a ticket — and, more importantly, have a safe outcome — they had the following advice:

1. Stop. Do not flee.

2. If you have tinted windows, roll them down.

Members of the Boynton Beach police department hand out tickets to drivers that made an illegal right turn from the center lane of the southbound exit ramp at I-95 and Gateway Blvd. Monday, June 17, 2013 during rush hour. Cars in the center lane can only legally turn left at the light and head east over the overpass. The cars were trying to avoid waiting in a long line of traffic that was backed up in the turn lane to head west. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)
(Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

If it’s night, turn on your car’s dome lights.

3. Put your hands on the steering wheel. Don’t reach for anything.

4. Provide your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance when asked.

5. Explain your movements before making them. Tell the officer you’ll be reaching into your glove box for your registration, for example.

6. After receiving your documents, the officer should say why you’ve been pulled over. If not, you can ask why you’ve been pulled over.

7. If you get a ticket, do not argue with the officer at the scene. Argue the ticket in court.

8. Sign your ticket. Refusing to sign your ticket can result in an arrest, according to Florida law.