Six years ago yesterday, Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo. That event changed the trajectory of the nation in many ways and is still widely discussed across the country.
That shooting also lead to one of the most collaborative projects in Washington Post history. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 people worked on The Post’s Fatal Force project in its first year alone. The project endeavored to track every on-duty fatal by police officers and is now in its sixth year, having tracked in near real-time more than 5,500 shootings.
Building your own database from scratch is no joke. There are a lot of considerations in what fields you collect and which you don’t. The world is your oyster in the planning stages and you can crate fields for whatever you’d like. I think one common mistake many make when they start collecting data is trying to collect too much and too little. The reason for this is because there’s often not a guiding principle for which fields to collect.
The guiding principle for reporters at The Post during the process of determining fields we would collect as part of our effort wasn’t just which fields we could collect; it was which fields we should collect. As a journalism organization, we want to write stories out of the data. So why collect fields in which there is no story. Folks I’ve spoken to about this process know I often joke about the fact that we could have created a field for whether someone shot and killed by police was right- or left-handed. But even if we could have collected a critical mass for that field, what’s the story? If it’s not usable it’s a waste of your time.
It’s also incredibly difficult to go back and add fields you didn’t realize you wanted in an initial plan. Sometimes, the amount of work isn’t worth it. But if it’s truly something you need, going back and adding it is a no-brainer. This is a practical field and practicality should always come first.
Of course no project like this is possible without incredible people powering it. I will never stop being deeply appreciative for the heroes of this project who have worked day in and day out to keep the public informed on this important topic: Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins.
I love combing through woodworking Instagram and seeing all of the ridiculous pieces that people are making and have made. There’s a lot of inspiration out there but there are also a ton of items I would never even consider making.
Every now and again, I see a table and chair made by Giancarlo Neri circulate around the internet. The two pieces are perfectly fine and all but they suffer from one problem: they’re not usable. That’s because they’re several stories tall.
It was a piece of art but it has always represented something to me that is a problem with many pieces of furniture made in an effort to be unique. Naturally, the first step I take when beginning a new project is designing the piece. I like to build everything custom and specific to what a client wants and so that is always in the forefront of my mind in designing.
But most importantly, I want to build a piece of furniture that is actually functional for human. Furniture is only good if it’s useful. You wouldn’t want a crazy dresser with 1,000 small drawers because you couldn’t fit any clothes in it. It may look dope but if it doesn’t serve the purpose it’s supposed to then it’s designed poorly. If it’s not usable it’s a waste of your time.
So while I enjoy making cool and unique items out of wood for people, my highest priority is that is does the task its built for. I can build a dining table with one leg but chances are it will tip over when anything is put on the edge. This is a practical field and practicality should always come first.
SDPD Is Punishing Speech Using a 102-Year-Old City Law — “Local codes are often full of odd relics. For example, a section in the Kentucky Constitution requires all public officials swear they have never participated in a duel. They often go unnoticed or unenforced, the subjects of listicles or sitcom jokes. San Diego police, however, have been enforcing this one. Since 2013, as far back as the city would provide records, San Diego Police Department officers have issued 83 tickets to people they accused of using seditious language. The most recent was written in May.” [Voice of San Diego]
How Prisons in Each State Are Restricting Visits Due to Coronavirus — “As COVID-19 spread earlier this year, prison facilities across the country suspended visits from family and lawyers. Several months into the pandemic, some states are easing those restrictions. We’re rounding up the changes as they occur. Some states are gradually resuming in-person court proceedings, though reopening plans can differ greatly between districts.” [The Marshall Project]
Aurora, Denver police use force against Black people at higher rates than other races — “Amid protests of police brutality and a national reckoning of centuries of racism, data from the Aurora and Denver police departments give credence to what Black residents here have been saying for years: Police in two of Colorado’s largest cities disproportionately use force against them. Nearly half of the people Aurora police officers struck, tackled, pepper sprayed, Tased or shot in 2019 were Black, though Black people make up 16% of the city’s population, department data shows. In Denver last year, Black people made up 27% of the 1,191 people Denver police used force against, in a city where 10% of the population is Black. No other racial demographic, in either city, had such a wide gap, and such racial disparities are shown in the cities’ data going back at least four years.” [The Denver Post]
To aid coronavirus fight, The Times releases database of California cases — “To follow the virus’ spread, The Times is conducting an independent survey of dozens of local health agencies across the state. The effort, run continually throughout the day, supplies the underlying data for this site’s coronavirus tracker. Its tallies can arrive days ahead of numbers published by the California Department of Public Health. By polling local agencies, The Times database also gathers some information not provided by the state. The system has won praise from public health officials, who do not dispute its method of data collection.” [Los Angeles Times]
This giant climate hot spot is robbing the West of its water — “This cluster of counties on Colorado's Western Slope — along with three counties just across the border in eastern Utah — has warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius, double the global average. Spanning more than 30,000 square miles, it is the largest 2C hot spot in the Lower 48, a Washington Post analysis found. The average flow of the Colorado River has declined nearly 20 percent over the past century, half of which is because of warming temperatures, scientists say. With the region’s snowpack shrinking and melting earlier, the ground absorbs more heat — and more of the precious water evaporates.” [The Washington Post]