Why Local Investigative Journalism Matters

Last month in Colorado Springs, 19-year old De’Von Bailey was shot and killed as he ran from police. Bailey and his cousin were stopped by police after a 911 caller reported an armed robbery in the area. After being stopped (but before being patted down) Bailey fled. According to police, the shooting occurred after Bailey reached for what was later identified as a gun.

Still frame from bodycam footage just before the shooting of De’Von Bailey. Link to video is to the right.

The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs published edited and condensed body camera footage of the incident. You can see it here, but be warned that the footage is graphic and disturbing.

Bailey’s death is a tragic outcome of a very unfortunate event and it is critically important to understand how and why the shooting occurred if we are to understand how to prevent similar incidents in the future. According to the Gazette, 5 of 7 police-involved shootings in Colorado Springs in 2019 have resulted in fatalities. Community activists in Colorado Springs point to a number of similar events around the country in recent years where police use of deadly force resulted in the death of minority suspects. Other names you might recognize include Michael Brown of Ferguson and Eric Garner of New York City.

The highly-respected journal Nature recently published an article calling attention to the shortage of scientific data on the topic of police use of lethal force. According to the article, “In the United States, police officers fatally shoot about three people per day on average.” And while it is essential that objective research be gathered, analyzed and published it is also critically important that journalistic investigations continue to shine a spotlight on any sign of injustice and abuse of power. This is why local journalism exists and why it matters.

To carry out their duty journalists must be dogged and relentless in their pursuit of truth. And once they find truth, they must present it to their readers/listeners/viewers in a way that is informative, compelling, and unbiased. Anything less is an abdication of their purpose and mission.

I’m being honest when I say that I don’t know enough about this tragic event to have formed a strong opinion on whether this shooting was justified. I hope that investigative journalism, and an independent investigation, will step up to provide the necessary context to help us process this tragedy. Without that we will be left to our own biases and interpretations of what happened on that evening of August 3rd in the 2400 block of East Fountain Blvd. in Colorado Springs.

Additional links to media coverage of the shooting

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