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Using data to fight inequities in policing

Sam Sinyangwe says he couldn’t have predicted the journey of his life so far.

He grew up experiencing the inequities in our society first-hand. He couldn’t foresee how he might play a crucial part in the effort to end them, using data.

Sinyangwe studied political science at Stanford University. He learned how to do advanced research then went to work for a research institute.

His job was to use data to support anti-poverty programs in poor communities. He says one day changed how he would use the skills he’d acquired: August 9, 2014, the day Michael Brown was killed by a policy officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

In the wake of that event, Sinyangwe came to realize there was no federal database documenting police violence.

“The Federal Government could tell you how much rainfall there was in rural Missouri going back a hundred years. They cannot tell you how many people the police killed last or the year before.”

In response, he helped build the Mapping Police Violence database. Among the findings: “Police killed 1,147 people in 2017. Black people were 25% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.”

The analysis helped prove to others, including the FBI, that such mapping could and must be done.

Sam Sinyangwe is a policy analyst and data scientist, a racial justice activist, a co-founder of We the Protesters and Campaign Zero and a co-host of the Pod Save the People podcast. He gave this talk-- Using Data to Advance Racial Justice-- at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall on October 15. KUOW’s Sonya Harris recorded the event.

This episode of Speakers Forum is part of KUOW’s partnership with the University of Washington Graduate School Public Lecture Series.

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