Militarization of Police

Deadspin is Crowdsourcing a Police Shooting Database


As noted here on Hit & Run last week and on yesterday, there is no comprehensive national database of shootings by police. Though academics like David Klinger and Jim Fisher have been on the case for years, there hasn't been a coordinated effort to compile all the necessary data into one place, until now.

 ||| Ben Re / Foter
Ben Re / Foter

As part of its coverage of the unrest in Ferguson, MO, following the police shooting death of unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, Deadspin, the hugely popular Gawker Media-affiliated sports and pop culture website, is asking its readers to help crowdsource information on police shootings from 2011-2013.

For a few hours today, they were allowing their readers to update a Google doc spreadsheet, which proved unwieldly due to a limit on the number of concurrent users accessing the doc. They have since moved to soliciting info via a submission form on the site.  

The expected beta-testing kinks aside, you can check out their submissions so far and see they're off to a pretty impressive start.

Hoping to avoid being deluged with redundant or inaccurate data, they have provided these guidelines:

  • Using Google's search tools, isolate a single day (e.g. Jan. 1, 2011, to Jan. 1, 2011) and search for the term "police involved shooting" (don't use quotation marks). Use Chrome's Incognito mode when searching to ensure you aren't getting local results.
  • Read each link on the first 10 pages of results; for any instances of shootings involving a police officer, log them in the spreadsheet.
  • We're looking at 2011, 2012, and 2013, and tracking date, name, age, gender, race/ethnicity, injured/killed, armed/unarmed, city, county, state, agency, number of shots, a brief summary, and a link to a story about the incident are to be filled out as best as possible given the information in all stories about the incident.
  • Before starting in, take a look at the submissions here and pick a day that no one has begun. Remember, we're starting off looking at just the past three years.
  • Often, the first day of reports will not have personal details, and a second search of subsequent days will fill in more of the story.
  • A later death, after a person is hospitalized in a police-involved shooting, is considered a death for our purposes.
  • We are looking for any incidence of a police officer shooting and hitting another person.
  • We are not looking for incidences of police officers discharging their weapons and hitting no one. In a perfect world these would be tracked, since often the only difference is that the shot missed, but these incidents are not as thoroughly reported and would probably bias the data.
  • Please keep the data as neat as possible. Work within specific months, make sure you're in the correct year, keep the columns clean and add peripheral information in the Summary portion, etc.

Considering the sheer volume of highly personal information the government collects and analyzes (often without consent), it is simply outrageous that the public has to struggle to find even the raw data tallying something as vital as government agents shooting citizens. 

Deadspin's efforts at providing transparency on police shootings are a great example of public volunteerism stepping up to fill a void deliberately created by the government, which would rather not have this conversation. 

Now, who will be the first to step up and crowdsource the data behind police shooting dogs?


NEXT: Teen Arrested, Suspended for Shooting a Dinosaur (In a Story He Wrote)

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Always helpful to post this link as well

  2. I know this might be hard for some younger people to believe, but Deadspin was once a fun and funny website to visit. Now it is mostly SJWs who like sports.

    That said, I wish them luck with their efforts.

      1. Social Justice Warriors

        1. I shoulda refreshed. Curse your swift digits!

      2. Social Justice Warriors. Crusaders of righteous indignation fighting valiantly on the internet to advance the goal of Equality for all.

    1. Same with Kotaku. It’s like Jezebel infects everything there.

      1. Speaking of Jezebel and Gawker, I spotted that article about them…..uchecanoes

        1. Yeah, Nick hides his money in the Caiman Islands while his minions bitch about paying your “fair share”, and he doesn’t pay interns shit, either, while bitching about living wages.

          1. You mean a leftist asshat is actually a giant hypocrit? *faints in shock* /sarc

    2. What’s funny is that years ago, the Deadspin and Jezebel commenters couldn’t stand each other. The Deadspinners, while mostly liberal, tended to be an easygoing bunch who recognized what a bunch of humorless, one-note bints the Jezbians were.

      It wasn’t until neocommie Tommy Craggs took over Deadspin’s chief editor that it lurched WAAAAY to the left in tone and content. Most of the commenters that made it a fun site to read largely left by then, and it’s now another pointless Gawker snark-fest.

  3. A later death, after a person is hospitalized in a police-involved shooting, is considered a death for our purposes.

    Jeez. If you’re going to be that loose with the criteria, why not include instances where police firearms discharge themselves and non-officers are struck and die as a result while you’re at it?

  4. The folks at Gawker aren’t entirely useless. Huh.

  5. There are serious issues with this project as currently laid out by Gawker:

    1. They are only tracking shootings. What is needed is a national database of police killings. There is no reason to track shootings and not track beatings, tasings or vehicular assaults resulting in death. There are many recent examples of this – Kelly Thomas and Michael Brown being the most well known. I can reply if needed with examples of the many problems excluding these types of events from the dataset cause.

    2. They are hosting this on Google Docs using code they did not design. This means they do not control the data, information about their visitors or the code of the page itself. This type of project relies heavily on anonymous sources. Gawker has ensured that they can offer those sources no protection and in fact guarantees US law enforcement will have ready access to the identities of those sources. This is really inexcusably incompetent for any modern media company hoping to engage in this sort of work. Lives are at stake. This isnt a game.

    3. Because of #2, the project is not portable. If Google or LE shuts down the site, they have a spread sheet and no solution to return the project to online availability.

    1. Since reading this article I have been inspired to solve these problems and address the question posed re: dog shootings.

      I’ve programmed a simple and relatively secure form and database hosted on an independent Cloud server. The system is fully functional and ready to receive data. That said, a few additional steps need to be taken to ensure success for our murdered pets:

      -Im a computer person, not a polling person. While I have some basic questions in the form I could use help adding questions that would ensure the data is relevant for what news organizations would be interested in.

      -The project is hosted in the Amazon Cloud for free right now. This provides only the most marginal security benefit over Google. It is, however, incredibly portable. I can move the platform to a server anywhere in the world in about 5 minutes or so. Help would be required to raise funds to host the project and its DNS records at a “Bullet Proof” provider.

      -Any advice that Reason or its readers have would be greatly valued and appreciated.

      -I have the project fairly locked down while its in development but am happy to grant access to anyone interested.

  6. OK the db is stable enough for public traffic. Please help

    1. wow this is an old comment. The project / website I talk about here has turned into the Puppycide Database Project, which is now available here:

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.