07 December 2014

Police-related Killings

Like a lot of people, I've been viewing all the recent (and not so recent) news about police-related killings with a mix of sadness and outrage. I was really surprised to find out that the government doesn't collect good data on this and that the number that's often tossed about is just plain wrong.

In the 538 article I just linked to, a few crowd-sourced projects are mentioned:

Then there are some Wikipedia pages on the same topic, with killings listed by month. (Here's November, which is fairly complete.) I've been contributing to the Wikipedia pages and also the Facebook page.

Finally there's the Gun Violence Archive, which is a broader project aimed at providing "accurate information about gun-related violence in the United States."

As I'm watching a lot of communication and cooperation around data projects in my academic life, I'm wondering why these projects can't do the same thing. With at least four separate crowd-sourced projects tracking essentially the same data—though the Facebook page and Wikipedia pages don't include as much detail as the others—that's a lot of duplication of work happening. It would be easy enough to generate most of the entries in the Wikipedia tables from the data in one of the other two projects in the list above, so some of it could be reduced, but there would still be a lot left in those two projects. In addition they've got their data in Google docs, which are handy, but mean a lot of anonymous editing and a reliance on Google to keep the service around (which I realize is more of a long-term worry). FatalEncounters has already had a problem with vandalism and has moved to a much more labor-intensive method for updates.

So I've emailed the responsible parties there and am hoping there can be some deeper cooperation and maybe some better current and long-term access to the data arranged (GitHub?).

I'll keep you posted.

PS In addition to 538, there's also this effort to work with the Facebook data, which also provides a link to those data, which are hard to get from Facebook directly.