A California Reporting Project’s story wins a Golden Mike Award for Investigative Reporting
Through the analysis of thousands of police records, the California Reporting Project revealed how the Bakersfield Police failed to identify people in mental health crises. That story, aired by KVPR, one of the 40 news organizations of the journalistic coalition, recently received a Golden Mike Award for Investigative Reporting.
With the support of students from Stanford Journalism’s Watchdog Reporting Class and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program, reporters found that 44 percent of people seriously injured or killed in encounters with Bakersfield police officers displayed signs of a mental health condition between 2014 and 2019. However, less than 3 percent of them were correctly identified as having mental health issues by the officers involved.
The California Reporting Project got its start after the passage of the CA State Senate Bill (SB) 1421 in 2018, which made use-of-force police records available to the public in incidents when a firearm was shot or when the force applied resulted in serious injuries.
In a statewide collaborative effort, the coalition analyzed the Use of Force Incident Reporting and Death In-Custody databases and reviewed thousands of use-of-force police records to uncover key accountability stories such as the number of times Bakersfield police broke bones when they used force.
Last year, the California Reporting Project decided to explore a new question: Do officers in Bakersfield correctly identify when someone was mentally ill or intoxicated prior to using force?
“People who are mentally ill or intoxicated or experiencing a kind of crisis often can’t respond in the same way to a command that other people can’t,” said Lisa Pickoff-White, a KQED data journalist who works with Big Local News, highlighting the public interest of the investigation.
According to Pickoff-White, the collaboration with local journalists was vital for the story. Lezla Gooden, a local multimedia journalist who lived and worked in Bakersfield at the time, was essential to the team’s understanding of the city.
The Golden Mike Award is one of America’s longest-running broadcast news award programs. It is also Southern California’s most prestigious, and most coveted, broadcast journalism prize. The award is given by The Radio and News Association of Southern California, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting excellence in local broadcast journalism.
“It’s always exciting to receive an award,” said Pickoff-White after receiving the prize, pointing out that the most important part of the work for the reporters is that “we get to speak with people and honor their stories.”
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From its base at Stanford University, Big Local News gathers data, builds tools and collaborates with reporters to produce journalism that makes an impact. Its website at biglocalnews.org offers a free archiving service for journalists to store and share data. Learn more by visiting our about page.