So far, we have collected over 1,500 incidents of police-involved shootings from 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, and have at least one incident logged on over 45 percent of days in those four years. We owe everyone who’s chipped in so far a round of drinks when this is all over—and for anyone who hasn’t yet but would like to, we still have a long way to go and more hands are always welcome. This is an update on what’s happened since, but if you want, you can take a look at the data here, and skip to the bottom of this post for the guidelines and submission form.
We’ve run into some complications, obviously. Out the gate, our plan to operate in a completely open spreadsheet on Google Drive quickly proved itself to be a terrible idea, both because it was easy for trolls to delete the entire thing and because of Google’s limit of 50 concurrent users. Thanks to a number of helpful readers (and most specifically Sergio Hernandez, who’s been a godsend), we set up a form submission process that we think helps keep our data a little more organized. The entries from the original spreadsheet will be imported around the time that we move onto the next phase.
Speaking of, for anyone peeking down the line: Once data collection starts to wind down (but after we de-dupe), we will move onto verification and fact checking. This will be a less sprawling process, but will still require a dedicated effort to ensure that every fact is accurate, and that every missing fact is indeed unattainable. From there, we will begin building the actual database. We have had a number of generous offers to help with this, and we’ll be taking up anyone who’s offered advice or support.
We aren’t the only ones trying to put together a database like this. On Gawker, Brian Burghart wrote about the institutional ignorance he’s encountered over two years of assembling his own database, Fatal Encounters. We’ve also been in touch with the Gun Violence Archive, which is as professional and sober-minded a shop as you’ll find, with 10 researchers—librarians and sysadmins, mainly—scanning 750 newspapers a day, police blotters, FOIA requests, and quarterly stat dumps by departments. The GVA, funded by Michael Klein of the Sunlight Foundation, was born out of Slate’s 2013 effort to count every gun-related death in America, but has grown beyond “counting coffins.” Today, it tracks every gun-related incident in the country, and has generously offered to send us its 2014 officer-related incidents. By its count, there have been more than 1,300 officer-involved shootings this year alone.