On 30 May 2017, Ajay Sandhu presented a paper on ‘The Police’s Data Visibility: How Data Technologies Are Used to Document, Analyse, and Predict Police Officer’s Use of Fatal Force’ in the session ‘Social Studies of Science and Technology: Roundtable’ at the 2017 Canadian Sociological Association Annual Conference.
From a social perspective, surveillance technologies which employ big data represent a threat to fundamental human rights concerning privacy, free association, and free expression, among others. However, the same technologies may also provide opportunities to introduce new checks on state authority. For example, statistical data logging use of force incidents facilitates new ways to assess police officers’ decision making in confrontational interactions with citizens, and hold individual police officers accountable for questionable conduct including the excessive use of fatal force. The paper considers the unique contributions that data technologies make to efforts to monitor police officers’ use of fatal force by examining the role that websites like The Counted, Fatal Force, and Mapping Police Violence play in filling the long-standing gap in publically available data about police use of fatal force. The paper concludes with a discussion of the challenges inherent in data technologies which must be addressed before declaring data brokers and data sharing websites a solution problems like the lack of transparency and accountability in policing.