An interactive project aiming to create a comprehensive account of deaths caused by law enforcement in the United States was launched by Guardian US yesterday.
The victims can be sorted through filters such as ethnicity, gender, age, and if the person was armed. Guardian US senior reporter Jon Swaine said the project, called The Counted, is designed for readers and researchers "to be able to see who these people are".
"Whether they were armed we thought was an important detail because I think the death of unarmed people at the hands of police is understandably controversial," he told Journalism.co.uk.
"We thought it was really important to be able to separate out the people who did not confront officers with a weapon but were still killed."
The database counts not just shootings, but deaths caused by Taser; those who died in police custody due to a struggle or injury; and people who died after being hit by police vehicles.
"It's not just an issue of gun shots, it's an issue of the police's use of physical force," said Swaine.
Each case featured in The Counted includes the location, date, police department involved, and more details including the status of the investigation – such as 'officer charged with crime' in the case of Freddie Gray in Baltimore for example.
Screenshot from the Guardian.
These information cards also feature links to related stories on the Guardian website, social sharing buttons, and an option to send tips to the team.
The cases included in the database at launch were sourced through the Guardian's own reporting, speaking to police and coroner departments and keeping an eye on regional media, he explained.
But the aim is to make The Counted "a fully interactive system" between the Guardian and its readers.
"We want to make sure it's reported properly", he said, "so we want readers and users to send us information if they witness one of these incidents, we want them to tell us."
The database also allows readers to switch between list view and a map, which displays the exact location of each case enabling people around the US to see what's happening in their neighbourhoods.
Screenshot from the Guardian.
The idea for the project came when Katharine Viner, now editor-in-chief of the Guardian, took on the role of US editor last summer.
After the Ferguson riots and a number of high-profile cases of police brutality hit the news, the US team wanted to report on every single fatality, said Swaine, explaining how there is no comprehensive count by the US government.
The Counted aims to inform the debate around police violence, as Swaine said it's difficult to come to conclusions when there is no "solid public information".
The Guardian US team, now led by newly appointed editor Lee Glendinning, has used the data to reveal how "Black Americans killed by police twice are as likely to be unarmed as white people", for example.
"It will be a full time effort," Swaine said of the project, "because sadly there are new fatalities almost every day. Rarely a day goes by when there is not someone who gets added to this list."
When today's Guardian went to print, 464 names where included in the database. By the time of writing, three more cases have been added.
Guardian front page, Tuesday 2 June 2015 – Shoot to kill: a US horror story pic.twitter.com/0lmsKebRgb— The Guardian (@guardian) June 2, 2015
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