Complexity Explorer Santa Few Institute

Lecture: Crime and Punishment

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4.1 Geography » Mapping Police Use-of-Force

One challenge to understanding racial bias in policing, and especially in the use of force against civilians, is the lack of public data. Mapping Police Violence is making an effort to fill this gap, compiling the three largest and impartial crowdsourced databases on police killings in the US:, the U.S. Police Shootings Database and The Mapping Police Violence team has refined the data with social media, obituaries, criminal records databases, police reports and other sources to identify the race of most victims in the database.

NOTE: ComplexityExplorer does not make any claim as to the accuracy or validity of the Mapping Police Violence database but only offer it as one example of a resource that attempts to address the sparsity of data.

  • Looking at the state-by-state and city-by-city differences in police use-of-lethal-force, what patterns exist?
  • What correlations can be found about the effectiveness of a police department and its history of using lethal force against civilians? Or against civilians belonging to particular racial or ethnic categories?
  • What correlations can be found between police use-of-lethal-force and police deaths in the line of duty? What about overall gun ownership in cities or states?
  • What might lead some states to be more biased than others with respect to victims of police use-of-lethal-force?
  • Should their be federal requirements for public reporting of police use-of-lethal-force?