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The Week In Data: Ferguson

This is The Week In Data, our data journalism roundup. Here you’ll find the most-read FiveThirtyEight articles of the past week, as well as gems we spotted elsewhere on the Internet.

This week, we’re highlighting work marking the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri last year.


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1,091 people: Several initiatives are attempting to address the fact that nobody knows how many Americans the police kill each year. The nonprofit Fatal Encounters tracks and verifies reported police killings, documenting as many details as possible. Vox mapped this data, showing there hasn’t been a single state without a reported police killing in the last year. [Vox]

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Seven times more likely to die: In the wake of Michael Brown’s killing, The Washington Post sought to create its own database of police shooting deaths. By their count, more than 600 Americans have been shot and killed by police so far this year. In their special anniversary coverage, reporters at the Post unpack the difficulties of collecting accurate information and focus on some of the dead — such as Frank Shephard, who was killed after racing away from a routine traffic stop. A separate story focuses on the 24 unarmed black men who have been shot and killed by police so far this year. [The Washington Post]

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False, half true or true?: The problem isn’t just the lack of reliable statistics on police killings — it’s also that many of the cited statistics on race and crime are inaccurate. PolitiFact took a look back at the numbers cited on these topics over the past year and tested their veracity. One of these fact-checks included the claim made by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani that “the conviction rate is almost exactly the same” for whites and blacks who commit murder. According to PolitiFact there is “absolutely no data” to support that assertion. [Tampa Bay Times]

The Counted: This interactive is more than a one-off anniversary piece — it’s a testimony to The Guardian’s efforts to document police killings. You can search the database of victims starting in 2015 by state, gender, age, race and ethnicity and name. In many cases, you can see pictures of those killed — a powerful reminder of the people behind the numbers. [The Guardian]

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Mona Chalabi is data editor at the Guardian US, and a columnist at New York Magazine. She was previously a lead news writer for FiveThirtyEight.