AP Howard Center Lethal Restraint Project

Howard Centers, AP Global Investigations Team publish yearslong investigation into police use of force

Thursday, March 28, 2024


The Associated Press global investigations team, the Howard Centers for Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University and the University of Maryland, and FRONTLINE (PBS) on Thursday launched “Lethal Restraint: An investigation documenting police use of force,” a project three years in the making.

The investigation will continue rolling out over the next several months.

Every day, police across the country use physical restraints, Tasers, takedowns and other tactics in encounters that are not supposed to be fatal. But sometimes, what is known as “less-lethal force” can still end in death. These deaths are not formally tallied by the federal government, so what the public knows about them is highly incomplete at best. 

“Lethal Restraint” documents 1,036 non-shooting deaths involving law enforcement over a recent decade, from 2012 through 2021. The joint reporting project created an unprecedented interactive story and database of these cases, and is now making it available to the public. 

Student reporters in the Howard Centers at both universities played key roles in this groundbreaking investigation. ASU and UMD reporters filed thousands of public information requests to law enforcement agencies in all 50 states seeking background information on police officers involved in arrests that turned deadly and analyzed the results. They also helped develop what became the project’s master database of lethal restraint cases

Reporters in ASU’s Howard Center were specifically responsible for unearthing incidents of lethal police restraint for the entire state of Nevada. They combed through court records and submitted public information requests to state and local law enforcement agencies, medical examiners and prosecutors. The students also reviewed police body-camera footage and spoke with attorneys, advocates, lawmakers, policing experts, toxicologists and other public health scientists, as well as the surviving families. 

In all, 24 students from the Howard Center at ASU contributed to reporting, data collection and analysis for “Lethal Restraint.” Over the next several months, their written and visual stories will be published on The Associated Press’ state and national wires. These stories cover police transparency laws in California, national legislative efforts at police reform, police use of prone restraint (where a suspect is held facedown), officer mental health, how officers are disciplined after a less-lethal force death, among other topics. Stories from Howard Center students at ASU and UMD are also gathered online here: https://police.cnsmaryland.org/

“We are pleased to partner with the Howard Centers for Investigative Journalism on this important examination of police restraint-related deaths nationwide,” said Ron Nixon, AP’s Vice President, News and Head of Investigations, Enterprise, Partnerships and Grants. “The Centers were instrumental in helping to bring to light this first ever comprehensive look at law enforcement use of less-lethal force in America. The work speaks to the quality of investigative collegiate journalism programs at Arizona State University and the University of Maryland.”

Howard Center reporter Taylor Stevens served as the assistant project editor for ASU’s reporting and the AP’s data fact checker. “Working on this ambitious project for the last two years alongside the incredible team of journalists at The Associated Press has been the most fulfilling endeavor of my professional career,” Stevens said.

“While public attention has largely focused on shootings by police in recent years, deaths that occur during or shortly after less-lethal force have received far less public scrutiny. I’m hopeful that, by shining a spotlight on such fatalities, our investigation will not only help significantly further the public’s understanding of these underreported deaths but will also help prevent them moving forward,” Stevens added. Since graduating from Cronkite with her Master’s degree in investigative journalism, Stevens is now an investigative reporter at FOX 13 News in Salt Lake City. 

Tirzah Christopher also reported on “Lethal Restraint” as her capstone project for her investigative Master’s degree at Cronkite. She reviewed hundreds of hours of police evidence video from body-worn cameras, dash cams, surveillance cameras and bystander cell phones, many of which had never before been published. “Reviewing hours of bodycam footage of people being killed was heavy work,” Christopher said. “But being involved in a project as big as this one showed me how many groups of people are impacted by police violence and how essential investigative reporting is.” 

ASU’s participation in this collaborative investigation was overseen by Maud Beelman, the Howard Center’s founding executive editor and current collaborations editor, Lauren Mucciolo, the center’s executive producer and Sarah Cohen, the Knight Chair of Data Journalism at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

“I am very excited to see this project land because I know the amount of work and dedication that went into it over the course of many, many months,” said Dr. Battinto L. Batts Jr., dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. “Collaborations such as this one with The Associated Press and FRONTLINE illustrate the quality of work that our students can produce and the respect that they garner in the industry.”

Explore the interactive story and database, the Howard Centers’ stories, AP’s stories and a forthcoming FRONTLINE documentary airing April 30 on PBS called Documenting Police Use of Force. The trailer for the documentary is available now on pbs.org/frontline. More written and visual stories from the AP and Howard Centers will be published in April to coincide with the documentary broadcast and over the coming months. 

The Howard Centers at Arizona State University and the University of Maryland were established in 2018 under grants from the Scripps Howard Fund to advance deeply researched watchdog journalism and train the next generation of investigative reporters. The Centers honor the legacy of Roy W. Howard, former chairman of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain and a pioneering news reporter.

For more information on ASU’s Howard Center and its projects, visit https://cronkite.asu.edu/experiences/howard-center/ or email howardcenter@asu.edu.



Jessica Alvarado Gamez, Taylor Bayly, Arlyssa Becenti, Jonmaesha Beltran, James Brown Jr., Tirzah Christopher, Nathan Collins, Grace Copperthite, Reagan Ryan Creamer, Tyler Dedrick, Katie Donnelly, Sam Ellefson, Mikey Galo, Rachel Konieczny, Brooke Manning, Shahid Meighan, Wyatt Myskow, Caralin Nunes, Lisa Patel, Juliette Rihl, Elena Santa Cruz, Taylor Stevens, Zachary Van Arsdale, Isza Amponin Zerrudo


Taylor Stevens


Maud Beelman, Lauren Mucciolo, Sarah Cohen


Mark Greenblatt