WATCH: How a group of NJ reporters built a massive database of police use of force

A closer look at NJ.com’s unprecedented police use of force database

A team of data reporters at NJ Advance Media recently published a massive investigative data project called The Force Report, the result of a 16-month investigation. The database includes police use of force incidents from the last five years and is made up of 72,607 documents from New Jersey’s 468 local police departments, plus the state police. There are local stories for months in this database and they can’t get to all of them on their own.

That’s why the Center for Cooperative Media hosted a webinar on Wednesday with one of the project’s reporters, Stephen Stirling. We invited local reporters, editors, and publishers from around the state (and the country) to participate and learn more about the project. We also discussed how they might use this work to inform their own local reporting efforts.

Watch the full webinar below or click here to watch it on YouTube.

And don’t forget to visit force.nj.com and search the most comprehensive statewide database of police force in the country, or use the interactive map to get an overview of the state as a whole. Dig deeper and find your town, your local department and your local officers. This is the first time this data has ever been available to anyone in the state, and they’ve combined it all into a single, easy-to-use and searchable database for the residents of New Jersey.

Stirling says they plan to release the full dataset at some point in the near future through a partnership with ProPublica. Journalists and educators will receive a discount from ProPublica’s data store. In the meantime, all of the aggregate data is available for free on NJ.com’s data.world profile.

Click here to view the full report.

More about The Force Report from NJ Advance Media:

🔊 Have you used this dataset in your reporting?

Let us know so we can help spread the word! Send a link to your reporting along with a brief description to info@njnewscommons.org and we’ll feature it in our newsletter.

👋 Interested in participating next time?

Click here to subscribe to the Center’s daily newsletter and stay up-to-date on the latest trainings, webinars, and events for NJ local journalists and news nerds. And click here to subscribe to the Local Connection, where each week you’ll learn how to take national news stories and localize them.


Joe Amditis is the associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media. You can reach him on Twitter at @jsamditis or via email at amditisj@montclair.edu.

Steve Stirling is a data reporter for NJ Advance Media. He can be reached via email at sstirling@njadvancemedia.com or on Twitter at @sstirling.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. The Center is supported with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab Fund of the Community Foundation of New Jersey and the Abrams Foundation. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.