The U.S. Government Is Finally Tracking Police Killings. | Gradient

The U.S. government is finally tracking police killings.


Late Monday night, the US Department of Justice announced plans to, for the first time, track fatal officer-related incidents. This news came hours before the two year anniversary of Michael Brown’s fatal shooting by Police Officer Darren Wilson.

Many have criticized the weak data on police violence as a serious limitation on understanding police brutality and thus, provide actionable solutions. As Ezekiel Kweku of MTV News explains, our publicly available information has debilitating inconsistencies:

Congress directed the Justice Department to start keeping track of it more than 20 years ago (as one of the few good provisions of the 1994 crime bill), but it wasn’t until 2013 that questions about use of force were even included on the survey that the Justice Department asks local police departments to fill out every few years. This survey isn’t perfect, and the questions are broad — what types of force are authorized, what types are documented, and how many documented instances of force have been used over the past year — but it would have still been something. We could have found out, for instance, whether police are more likely to use force in poor or minority communities, or whether body cams have any impact on use of force.

But when the data from 2013’s surveys came out last year, it turned out to be so incomplete and inconsistent that the only thing it was really useful for was understanding how little we know. After reviewing the data, I’ve found it to show that while almost every department reported keeping track of the number of times police officers used force, only about half of the departments said that they actually knew how many times it happened; the rest said they didn’t know, or declined to say at all. Even among the departments that said they knew how many times force was used, 20 percent said that their number was just a guess.

The Washington Post also brought attention to this massive lack of data, winning a Pulitzer for their research and reporting on police shootings. The Post, noticing the absence of public data,  compiled the information themselves using press clippings from local sources to find incidents and study trends.

Data, even valuable data, is one piece of the puzzle, and no one should be so optimistic to promise institutional change. But, a centralized, mandatory, and comprehensive approach that works with police departments, medical examiners, and coroners to track police killings is far from a panacea. It’s just a start.

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New Pod Flow: Sounds Good With Branden Harvey “Jason Russell”


Jason is the cofounder of the iconic non-profit Invisible Children which was founded to increase awareness of the horrendous activities of the LRA in Central Africa. Jason was also the director of the iconic Kony 2012 film that took the world by storm. In this two-part interview Jason and Branden talk about what it means to create a movement, what Jason experienced during his breakdown and subsequent recovery, and Jason’s experience in the world of theater.

New Pod Flow: Animalators, “ Aharon Rabinowitz”


Aharon Rabinowitz is the head of marketing for Red Giant based in New York City. During our conversation, we discussed the importance of work life balance, his start as a production intern at Sesame Street and why artist’s feel personally offended when you reject their work.

New Pod Flow: In Case You Missed It, Episode 040


United gets their cheap on, fake news, and Trump hired who?

New Pod Flow: Scribble & Jam, “Artist Matthew Perryman Jones”


Welcome to Episode IV. This week, Dan spends some time with his favorite singer/songwriter, Matthew Perryman Jones. Matthew and Dan talk about panic attacks, growing up in Atlanta, the way music is informed by pain and suffering and the way music gives freedom.

If you have spent any time watching television in the last decade you have most likely heard one of Mattew’s songs on shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, One Tree Hill and many others. His insightful writing and voice have drawn comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley, and he is on the short list of songwriters who skillfully weave the deeply philosophical and the vivid utterly human without ever losing sight of either.

To get his new album Cold Answer, (which features the three songs from him you heard on this episode), visit

Subscribe on iTunes.

New Pod Flow: Sounds Good With Branden Harvey “Next Steps After the Presidential Election”


Branden sits down with writer and speaker Tyler Huckabee days after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States to talk about empathy, justice, listening, and where we go from here.

New Pod Flow: In Case You Missed It, Episode 039


Special Election Edition, President Trump to legalized weed and everything in between.

This week we reflect on the election and discuss our strategies for staying sane.

New Pod Flow: Animalators, “Illo


Luca and Ilenia are the founders of Illo, a studio based in Turin, Italy.  During our conversation, we discussed their self-driving video bot named Algo, how Illo was formed and how they’ve crafted a unique office culture.

New Pod Flow: In Case You Missed It, Episode 038


This week we discuss Beyonce’s night at the CMAs, last minute election plans and how SNL might save us all.

Subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher.

New Pod Flow: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a Podcast: Doctor Strange


We appreciate everyone sticking with us through this long hiatus but are planning our return even as we speak, with a bunch of new goodies and an updated format. In the meantime, here’s a brief primer on Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange — just so you can go into the movie knowing what you’re getting yourself into.