Juvenile Injustice, Tennessee

In 2016, police arrested four Black girls at an elementary school in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Through more than 50 records requests and hundreds of hours of audio and video, reporters from WPLN and ProPublica uncovered a deeply unjust juvenile justice system that illegally arrested and jailed children, and disproportionately detained Black children. They discovered that the four girls, one as young as 8, were arrested for a crime that does not exist, in an investigation led by an officer who had been disciplined 37 times, on charges approved by judicial commissioners without law degrees, in a system overseen by a judge who failed the bar exam four times, in a county whose policy for locking up kids violated Tennessee law but was missed by inspectors year after year. Members of Congress have called for a federal civil rights investigation, and some members of the Tennessee legislature have called for the judge’s ouster. After the story was published, the judge announced she would be retiring at the end of her term this summer.

Mauled: When Police Dogs Are Weapons

In a year-long collaboration between regional and national outlets, reporters assembled the a first-of-its-kind database of incidents nationwide in which police dogs were used to attack suspects, resulting in serious injuries. They found that most victims were suspected of low-level non-violent crimes, and some were just bystanders. Injuries, both physical and psychological, were often severe and long-lasting. They resulted in disfigurement, reconstructive surgeries, permanent disability, and at least three deaths. This collaborative reporting project started with one journalist examining a local case in Alabama, and expanded nationally, joining forces with a similar investigation that had started in Indiana. In response to the series, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police announced it was tightening its policies for deploying police dogs; a national police think tank is drafting new guidelines on the use of K-9 units; and lawmakers in several states are using the reporting to push for new restrictions on the use of police dogs to bite people.

Read more about the story behind the investigation in this piece by The Journalist’s Resource.