Friday, August 22, 2014

Academic Failure: Where is the Dataset?

Gawker ran a piece on the absence of a dataset on police violence.  Brian Burghart, the author, blames the police departments in the U.S. for not providing such data.  That the federal government does not collect such data despite collecting nearly all other info about crime in the U.S.  What Burghart does not mention but could have/should have: the academic absence.

To be clear, I am not a scholar of crime.  I have no idea if there is a dataset that has been collected by academics.  But I think Burghart would have found it by now.  The strange thing is that we scholars get money, sometimes heaps of it, to build datasets about war, about political systems elsewhere, civil wars, and on and on.  But there is no dataset for police violence in the U.S.?  Where are the sociologists?  Where are the political scientists who study U.S. politics?

There seems to be a huge gap that is dying (oops) for a grant application.  This is the kind of thing that the National Science Foundation funds when it is not been ... micromanaged by Congress. 

In the principal-agent language of all of this, the principals (voters/politicians) seem not to be paying attention to what the agents (the cops) are doing, which means that they can do less or more than we want.  The fire alarm is ringing (this article and others like it), but no one seems to be answering.  Crap.

So, my academic friends, is Burghart wrong?  Or have we academics failed our city country?

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