The Counted (2015) is an ongoing project developed the Guardian a news source with three international sites situated in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia. This project however is specific to its US edition, where it collates and organises police reports, witness statements and information released by news outlets to archive and calculate the number of people killed by police in the US. For each entry of a victim, there is demographic information, location, whether the victim was armed, how they died, which police department killed them, the outcome of the case and, a short report on the incident with links to other news sources to read more about the event.
According to the database’s ‘About’ page, the reason why this project exists is because the “US government has no comprehensive record of the number of people killed by the law enforcement.” Ever since the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Michael Brown in 2014, many protests and debates has been prompted worldwide concerning police’s use of force and questioning their authoritative role. The project is driven to publicising the law enforcement’s accountability with these deaths as they believe it is “a prerequisite for an informed public discussion about the use of force by police.” Additionally, it was to counter the already existing and notably ineffective voluntary system conducted by the FBI where “law enforcement agencies may or may not choose to submit their annual count of ‘justifiable homicides’, which it defines as ‘the killing of a felon in the line of duty’.”
The Guardian collects its data through “police reports, witness statements… regional news outlets, research groups and open-reporting projects such as websites Fatal Encounters and Killed by Police.” However, they hope to become a “verified crowdsourced system” which allows users to contribute to the database by submitting their own tips and witness accounts of the incidents, be it a new case or an existing one. They have various options for users to do this such as using their online form, email, contacting them confidentially using their PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption key, sending them files via their SecureDrop system, joining their Facebook community or tweeting them at their Twitter account. The amount of options gives users many options to feel comfortable in contributing to the database, and even more so to have the option to be anonymous in these contributions.
The site itself has a simple yet effective layout, coloured schemed with white and spots of a warm yellow against a variety of darker greys. Scrolling down the page reveals a boxed grid of the victims, each tile labelled with the date of their death, their name, age, how they died, location and a black and white photo of themselves if available. The tiles are sorted by date, which are then grouped by header with the month and total of deaths labelled next to it. Some tiles in the grid such as Philando Castile and Alton Sterling’s cases are coloured yellow and, take up two horizontal places in the grid to highlight their larger significance. Readers also have the option to view the data on a map of the US, giving the data a geographical visualisation on the cases.
While despite my primary focus on the law enforcement and mental health, looking at the wider issue of the law enforcement, their role and their use of force is key for myself to understand my issue better. Many of the victims included in this database were mentally ill, so I feel it’s incredibly important for my own knowledge that I use this as a source of information. Furthermore, one of the main reasons I focused into this issue in the area of mental health, was because of all the incidents concerning the cases under the Black Lives Matter movement and of the heated debate around US police brutality in general.
The Guardian 2015, The Counted, viewed 19 August 2016, <http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database>
Images (including the header image) included in this post were recorded by Jasmine Mijares (2016) of The Counted site.