Policing resource round-up: Where to find data, advocacy materials, and more information about American policing

A list of the most valuable online resources from organizations focused on policing.

by Emily Widra and Wendy Sawyer, August 28, 2020

In the wake of yet another tragic police shooting, it’s more important than ever that the public be able to access clear, timely data about police behavior and connect with organizations fighting police brutality. Earlier this year, we summarized our key research on policing and showed that U.S. police kill civilians at a much higher rate than in other countries; now, for those looking for more information, we’ve compiled a (not exhaustive) list of the most valuable online resources from organizations focused on policing.

Data about police behavior and brutality:

Deaths by police:

  • Mapping Police Violence has the most comprehensive database of killings by police in the United States, which is publicly available for download. They also publish data visualizations that help advocates communicate the gravity and severity of police violence.
  • Data visualizations from Fatal Encounters show the national trends in deaths by police, by specific demographics like race and poverty levels across the country. Their database documents all deaths that happen when police are present or that are caused by police, and users can filter to examine specific categories, including deaths caused by on-duty law enforcement, off-duty law enforcement, as well as federal and local law enforcement.

Arrest, stop, and misconduct data:

  • The Center for Policing Equity works at the intersection of data and advocacy, using data-driven interventions to partner with police departments across the country to better address community needs like mental health, immigration enforcement, and homelessness, as well as changes to departments to enhance diversity recruitment and retention, training and patrol practices.
  • The NYCLU just released the NYPD Misconduct Complaint Database, a repository of complaints made by the public at the Civilian Complaint Review Board. This database includes over 300,000 unique complaint records involving over 80,000 active or former NYPD officers and the raw database is available for download.
  • The Stanford Open Policing Project collects and standardizes data on vehicle and pedestrian stops from law enforcement departments across the U.S. Data from over 200 million records of state and local police departments is freely available. A working paper from these researchers analyzes racial disparities in policing and finds that police stops and search decisions are heavily influenced by racial bias.
  • Open Data Policing makes stop, search, and use-of-force data publicly available. This aggregated data covers all known traffic stops in North Carolina since 2002, Illinois since 2005, and Maryland since 2013.
  • The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement compiles data on records of police racial profiling reports and this data is available to download for 2016-2019.

Police spending:

  • The Vera Institute of Justice created a tool that allows individuals to analyze just how much money is allocated to policing and to explore how changes in each spending category could reduce the total policing budget.

Information about police reform and abolition:

(in alphabetical order)

  • Campaign Zero tracks legislative changes and a curated collection of research across ten major categories of police reform, including limiting the use of force, community oversight, demilitarization, and fair police union contracts at the federal, state, and local levels. The organization’s platform is dynamic, informed by new research and community feedback.
  • Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) is a Minneapolis-based organization working to empower local communities to confront and end police brutality. With a local lens, CUAPB publishes reports on proposed and enacted legislation, as well as fact sheets and educational materials about debunking myths around policing.
  • In New York, Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) leads the campaign to end discriminatory policing practices with a team of community members, lawyers, researchers, and activists.
  • Critical Resistance curates a list of resources to provide education about the connection between policing and imprisonment, as well as a number of toolkits for advocates working toward dismantling the current law enforcement system and building viable alternatives in our communities.
  • The Dream Defenders began in Florida as an effort to organize Black and Brown youth to build power and strength in their communities, and to advance a vision of safety and security that is less reliant on prisons and policing. They offer a downloadable toolkit that outlines the steps for communities to start divesting from police.
  • The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) is a national organization supporting community-led efforts to defund police and to reinvest in long-term safety strategies like education, local restorative justice services, and employment programs.
  • MPD150 is a Minneapolis-based collection of local organizers, researchers, artists, and activists dedicated to shifting the discussion of police violence in Minneapolis from procedural reform to more meaningful structural change. They have an accessible and detailed resource list for readers seeking more in-depth information about changing policing.


  • NPR’s Code Switch produced a podcast episode — A Decade of Watching Black People Die — with an in depth discussion with journalist Jamil Smith about the years of deaths of Black people at the hands of police and the media coverage of these frequent violent deaths.
  • On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver explores the intertwined history of policing and white supremacy, the current roadblocks to police reform, and some potential paths forward for the nation.
  • The Untold Story: Policing is a four-part podcast series working to demystify police union contracts, as well as advocate for concrete steps to end police violence.
  • After George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, NPR’s history podcast — Throughline —released an episode analyzing the centuries of tensions between police and Black communities.
  • In a two-part episode of the podcast Intercepted, Ruth Wilson Gilmore makes the case for police and prison abolition, and offers a road map for understanding the current political moment of police brutality and resistance.
  • Human rights lawyer Derecka Purnell offers step-by-step guidance to understanding calls for defunding and abolishing policing as we know it in an effort to reduce harm to individuals and communities in this piece for The Atlantic.
  • In a recent article for Vanity Fair, Josie Duffy Rice of The Appeal presents the rationale for rethinking the policing and justice systems in the United States.

Finally, we’re always curating the best new research about the criminal justice system in our Research Library, which has a section dedicated to policing.

Emily Widra is a Research Analyst at the Prison Policy Initiative. (Other articles | Full bio | Contact) Wendy Sawyer is the Prison Policy Initiative Research Director. (Other articles | Full bio | Contact)

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