Challenge

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Improving how the US maintains police records to promote transparency

The United States government does not keep systematic records of when police kill civilians, despite a clear need for this information to serve the public interest and support social scientific analysis. Federal records rely on incomplete cooperation from local police departments, and human rights statisticians assess that they fail to document thousands of fatalities.
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Nature and Context

News articles have emerged as a valuable alternative data source for police procedure. Organizations including The Guardian, The Washington Post, Mapping Police Violence, and Fatal Encounters have started to build such databases of U.S. police killings by manually reading millions of news articles1 and extracting victim names and event details. This approach was recently validated by a Bureau of Justice Statistics study which augmented traditional police maintained records with media reports, finding twice as many deaths compared to past government analyses. This suggests textual news data has enormous, real value, though manual news analysis remains extremely laborious.

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