Dec. 20, 2019

Best of the States

AP Exclusive: Accidental shootings show nationwide gap in police training

A mother shot fatally shot in front of her 3-year-old son. A suspect killed while an officer tried to handcuff him. A Homeland Security agent was shot at a Texas high school by a U.S. marshal fumbling with equipment. These are among the more than 1,400 unintentional discharges found by Seattle reporter Martha Bellisle in an investigation that highlights the shortcomings of police weapons training.

No agency tracks how often local, state and federal officers accidentally fire their weapons. Over the course of more than a year, Bellisle exhaustively documented 1,422 unintentional discharges by 258 law enforcement agencies since 2012.

With contributions from colleagues in photo and video – including the story of an Iowa woman who was killed when an officer’s gun discharged, leaving her husband and children still scarred by the tragedy – the all-formats package received prominent play.

For an exclusive that sheds light on a virtually undocumented area of firearms safety, Bellisle earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 14, 2023

Best of the Week — First Winner

Follow-up reporting after Texas mass shooting reveals long-standing complaints about police response

When a Texas sheriff’s story about a mass shooting didn’t add up, Dallas-based reporter Jake Bleiberg dug in.  

During the four-day search for a man accused of fatally shooting five of his neighbors in April, San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told a crush of reporters that his deputies got to the scene in 11 minutes, but the suspect had vanished. Bleiberg was among the Texas reporters covering the shooting who heard from area residents that deputies rarely responded to calls faster than 30 minutes. As he worked the phone to get a fuller picture, Bleiberg connected with a source who provided him with the report of a police consultant who county officials hired to examine the sheriff’s office. Bleiberg quickly authenticated the document and headed down to the rural corner of East Texas to continue reporting along with video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi and freelance photographer Michael Wyke.  

They conducted more than 20 interviews with current and former deputies, county officials and residents. Bleiberg successfully pressed for the release of public records related to the shooting and obtained revealing court documents and evidence gathered in a whistleblower lawsuit against the sheriff. The reporting revealed that the latest inaccuracies were part of years’ worth of accusations against the sheriff, including neglecting basic police work, evidence of the improper seizure of tens of thousands of dollars of property, ignoring previous concerns over the alleged shooter, and his deputies failing to follow up on reports of 4,000 crimes — including sexual and child abuse.  

For a tireless effort to reveal years of corruption accusations and dysfunction previously unknown outside of the local area, Jake Bleiberg earns Best of the Week — First Winner. 

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Nov. 30, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats coverage of Alabama mall shooting and victim of police

for all-formats coverage of a Thanksgiving night mall shooting in Alabama, including the first interview with the father of a young man killed by police, who initially identified the 21-year-old as the shooter but later admitted he did not pull the trigger. Montgomery statehouse reporter Chandler provided strong all-formats coverage over the holiday weekend – including photos and video of protests against the police killing of the misidentified black man.https://bit.ly/2Sl619Vhttps://bit.ly/2KJ4UOW

Aug. 29, 2016

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Rio police: Scant evidence so far in Lochte robbery probe

for keeping AP ahead of developments in the fast-changing, highly-competitive Ryan Lochte story. Among the highlights were footage and photos of two of Lochte’s teammates being detained after they were removed from an airplane, and police officials expressing their doubts about Lochte’s account to the AP a day before calling it fabricated. Text: http://summergames.ap.org/article/2-lochte-teammat... Video: http://abcn.ws/2b0ZOua

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June 07, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals details of shooting by Oklahoma police that wounded 3 children

for dogged reporting on the physical and emotional struggles of three children wounded when police officers opened fire on their mother’s pickup truck. Authorities had largely avoided releasing information for nearly a month after the incident, but using Oklahoma open records law, and interviews with police, lawyers and the children’s mother, the team was first to reveal details of the investigation into the shooting, and the long recovery ahead for the children. https://bit.ly/2Wmwvyx

April 03, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Exclusive reporting on police contracting COVID-19

coordinated with colleagues around the AP to track how many police officers were getting sick with the coronavirus. Documented with exclusive nationwide data and illustrated with photos from multiple datelines, the result was a richly reported and deeply researched story on how police departments are struggling to manage the growing tally of sick officers, which rose from a few dozen to nearly 700 in a week - including Detroit’s chief of police. https://bit.ly/39vzdmY

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April 23, 2021

Best of the States

Teamwork, enterprise deliver deep coverage on fatal police shooting of Chicago teen

When Chicago police released the body camera video of an officer fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy in an alley, AP staffers in Chicago and across the AP sprang into action with aggressive reporting, sharp enterprise follow-ups and thoughtful standards discussions about how to responsibly portray the gruesome incident for photo and video clients.

The end result was three days of distinctive spot and enterprise coverage on a story that resonated with audiences around the world, especially with renewed focus on police violence in the midst of the Derek Chauvin murder trial.

For comprehensive coverage providing depth, detail and context on the shooting, the all-formats team of Michael Tarm, Don Babwin, Sara Burnett, Kat Stafford, Dave Bauder, Shafkat Anowar, Robert Bumsted and Derek Karikari shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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Feb. 23, 2018

Best of the Week — First Winner

AP photo and reporting beats from Florida school shooting

– Photographer Joel Auerbach’s poignant image of two women crying outside a Florida high school as parents awaited news about their children after a gunman’s deadly rampage on the campus.

– Reporters Michael Biesecker and Collin Binkley’s exclusive reporting that the suspect was a “good shot” on a National Rifle Association-backed rifle team at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The two exclusives helped distinguish the coverage of the shooting at the school that left 17 dead. For capturing the human toll in a single iconic image and shedding light on the suspect’s marksmanship training, Auerbach, Biesecker and Binkley win this week’s Beat of the Week.

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May 20, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Teamwork, sourcing put AP ahead on Buffalo mass shooting

teamed up to deliver fast, factual breaking coverage of Saturday’s racist mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket, then turned to stories of the victims and a community in mourning.In the chaotic first hours after the shooting, AP avoided the erroneous reporting of other outlets, including false reports that the gunman was dead. Sharp source work had AP accurately reporting the death toll ahead of the official news conference, and that authorities suspected the shooter was driven by racism.The all-formats coverage was AP’s top-performing story of the day, by far, widely used and credited by AP customers and drawing more than 1 million pageviews on AP News.Read more

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March 22, 2019

Best of the States

Sunshine Week investigation: Public regularly denied access to police videos

Police videos of officers shooting unarmed black men have sparked angry protests in Chicago, Sacramento and other U.S. cities. But AP’s Ryan Foley wondered: Is it the norm for departments to release footage from body-worn and dashboard cameras?

Foley, based in Iowa City, Iowa, a member of AP’s state government team, investigated and found that many departments routinely deny public access to their videos of officer-involved shootings and other uses of force.

Foley filed open records requests related to roughly 20 recent use-of-force incidents in a dozen states. His letters were met with denial after denial as police departments routinely cited a broad exemption to state open records laws: They claimed that releasing the video would undermine an ongoing investigation. But critics say the exemption is often misapplied to keep embarrassing or compromising video footage from public view.

To tell the story visually, Central Region video journalist Noreen Nasir dug through AP’s archives to highlight the moments and emotions that followed the deaths of unarmed black men, including the fatal police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. She also interviewed a woman in North Dakota whose brother died after being shot in the back of the head during a struggle with police, adding a crucial perspective to the video.

At the same time, Panagiotis Mouzakis, multimedia animation producer in London, used the many denial letters Foley had collected to create a video graphic that was incorporated into Nasir’s video, and Beat Team visuals editor Alina Hartounian developed a social plan that helped the package find a huge audience.

For shining a light on how police departments continue to withhold visual evidence and for devising creative ways to illustrate the story, Foley, Nassir and Mouzakis share this week’s Best of the States award.

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