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  Police Series Wins Reporting Award

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 2, 1999; Page A10

Four Washington Post reporters who wrote a series of articles about shootings by D.C. police have won the annual Selden Ring award for investigative reporting, the University of Southern California School of Journalism announced yesterday.

The series by Jeff Leen, Sari Horwitz, Jo Craven and David Jackson "documented how Washington, D.C., police have shot and killed more people per resident in the 1990s than any other large American city police force," the judges said in a statement on the $25,000 award.

In honoring the five-part series "Deadly Force: An Investigation of D.C. Police Shootings," the judges and the journalism school praised both the reporters and The Post and noted that the "audacious [and] meticulously" documented project already has brought changes to the D.C. police force.

The series "exemplified the best elements of classic investigative journalism, dogged reporting, lucid writing and great story-telling," the judges said. Murray Fromson, director of the journalism school, said the award "demonstrates that a newspaper widely known for its reporting of the nation's government is just as capable of committing substantial resources to coverage of its community's problems."

Despite minimal cooperation from the police and other city agencies, the series, which teamed reporters with researchers, presented "a sweeping, intricately documented indictment of a police force in which training, accountability and supervision of officers had been badly eroded," the school said in a statement.

Leen said he was "very happy" about the award and called the series "a total team effort from the top editors on down. They supported us from the very beginning." The project was edited by Marilyn Thompson and Rick Atkinson. Ira Chinoy, director of computer-assisted reporting, also worked on the series.

In noting the "profound" impact of the articles, which appeared in November, the school said that soon after their publication, Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey announced a sweeping retraining program for the entire department, including a doubling of the time spent on firearms instruction and teaching officers the use of alternatives to deadly force.

In addition, the statement said that the department has created a special "shoot team" of experienced professionals to investigate future shootings and that the U.S. attorney's office, which reviews police shootings here, has created a special unit to improve oversight of shootings and possible incidents of excessive force.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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