Isolated incidents

My wife is working on a sociology degree.  In one of her classes, she is working on a project where she is supposed to highlight a community issue where a “fallacy” exists.  She chose to look at police misconduct, and the fallacy that she chose to highlight is the notion that, wherever police misconduct occurs or is alleged, it is an “isolated incident” and therefore there is no systemic problem.

She is complaining that there is no database or website that she could find with reliable statistics, so she researched newspaper articles where police misconduct was alleged in South Carolina, within the past 3 years only, and drew a map showing the allegations by county, to illustrate why the “isolated incident” excuse is a fallacy:

Her map includes only incidents that were reported by the news media, and it does not include all incidents that were reported by the news media, because she was more concerned with showing how many counties it spans rather than creating an all-inclusive list.  The incidents on her map only go back three years.  Some involve officers that were charged with crimes, and they are innocent until proven guilty.  Others may involve officers that were not charged with a crime, that were disciplined, or that were not disciplined by their departments.  All are credible reports of misconduct, however.

The only way I know of to track allegations of misconduct is through the media reports, which certainly only contain the tip of the iceberg.  At one time, the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project was the most reliable collection of media articles nationwide, released daily.  Ironically, it was more reliable when one individual was in charge of publishing the statistics, but it appears to be useless/severely under-reporting since it was taken over the CATO institute.  I can only compare to the media reports in South Carolina, but they miss most of them.


6 Responses to “Isolated incidents

  • That has to be frustrating for her as the one doing the research as most college professors consider newspaper and other media outlets secondary sources. Secondary sources are not necessarily considered useful if there are not primary sources to validate the findings. I was surprised when I looked at the map as all areas of South Carolina are covered in such a short period of time. For someone to only refer to that map, it would appear that these are not isolated incidents at all.
    Interesting find that statistics such as these are not more readily available.

    • Joi Frederick
      6 years ago


      I am not frustrated; it is the nature of the beast and my professor agrees. I don’t think there would be a way to accurately reflect misconduct because some incidents will not leave the department. That is if the conduct was even discovered. I am more happy to put a visualization to this issue.

  • Allison Williams Esq.
    6 years ago

    I wish you the best.

  • Joi , Rocks !

  • The idea is great but, do you have the list of the newspapers you gathered as sources for this?

    • Quinn – the words “working on a project” are a link that takes you to a pdf of the map followed by the full articles with citations. Also, many (not all) of these appear in blog posts under the category “Police Misconduct,” and each individual article has a link to the publication as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *