Fatal Force: The Washington Post Police Shootings Database (2015)
The most salient and impactful works of data journalism fill a void and answer crucial questions that the government or private sector choose not to. Fewer still make the results of their investigations open to the public as a resource for all. But slim to none keep doing the work for seven years. That’s exactly what The Washington Post has done with Fatal Force.
Amid outrage over the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery suggested that The Post count every fatal police shooting in America. This had never been done, but was possible because stories about individual shootings were available in real time on the internet. Seven years later, The Post has cataloged more than 6,735 fatal shootings by police. Because of The Post’s work, we now know that American police officers shoot and kill about 1,000 people a year and that more than a third of the unarmed people shot dead by police were Black. The Post has consistently, since 2014, made the data accessible through graphics that show with stunning clarity how victims are disproportionately Black and overwhelmingly young and male. The full database is also searchable and filterable, making it useful for researchers, journalists, and all concerned citizens. For creating a public service that uncovers the hidden toll of police violence, consistently updating it year after year and making it available and explorable through visualizations and an interactive database, Fatal Force wins a Peabody.