On July 7, President Obama addressed a nation in mourning, saying in part, “If communities are mistrustful of the police, that makes those law enforcement officers who are doing a great job and are doing the right thing, it makes their lives harder. So when people say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter; it just means all lives matter, but right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows [our emphasis added] black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.”
The data shows.
Here are some data resources that connect you with data to better understand this multi-faceted, extremely important topic.
Criminal Justice Data / Government Issued
- The Bureau of Justice Statistics maintains more than a dozen national data collections covering federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and special topics in law enforcement. Most data collections are conducted every 2 to 4 years and focus on aggregate or agency-level responses, meaning the information that is collected pertains to units, such as police departments, training academies, and crime labs. Includes pages such as Use of Force.
- The BJS published this frequently cited report Black Victims of Violent Crime (2007). While dated, the report is still frequently cited and so could be considered worth a read.
- The FBI maintains a page of Crime Statistics and data, along with special reports.
Criminal Justice Data / Other
There has been criticism by some, as outlined by this article from the Harvard School of Public Health, regarding the government’s collection of data regarding some criminal justice issues. As a result, other organizations have begun alternate means of collecting data.
- The Washington Post has compiled a Fatal Force Statistics database with stats for both 2015 and 2016. They started the project in light of the events in Ferguson, MO, in 2014. They use news reports and other public records to compile the info, and this database only registers shootings, not other deaths by force between police officers and suspect.
- Likewise, The Guardian created a database called The Counted. This database is similar to The Washington Post datasets but includes all suspects who were killed by police, whereas the Post database focuses on shootings.
- Law Enforcement and Violence: The Divide between Black and White Americans is based on a survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. This poll surveyed 1,223 adults, including 311 black adults, and was conducted online and by phone over two day in July 2015. The poll sample was drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population.
- The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis, and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. Read Pew reports on Race and Ethnicity or Discrimination and Prejudice or Divide between blacks and whites on police runs deep.
- Opposing Viewpoints is a robust library resource that can be accessed with your PPL card. This online tools covers today’s most important social issues, such as criminal justice and race. Its informed, differing views present various sides of an issue and help researchers develop the confidence to draw their own valid conclusions.
- PolitiFact, a fact-checking website, concluded in August 2014 that police kill more whites than blacks citing data from the Centers for Disease Control on fatal injuries by “legal intervention” from 1999 to 2011. Read more here and link to the sources cited. PolitiFact also notes that whites make up 63% of the US population, while blacks make up just 12%.
- Maine.gov’s webpage on Crime in Maine houses records dating back to 1995. You can contact them directly for older information. Here you will find information on crime rates, arrest data, and data on assaults on police officers.
- Maine.gov also houses the Police Shooting Reports Archive. Here you will find the Attorney General’s Report on all police shootings in Maine.
- The Maine.gov Statistics Portal gives quick links to Maine specific demographic and crime rate data among other fields of data.
- The USM Muskie School has published the Maine Crime and Justice Data book (2014), which also includes sections and data on race.
- With your PPL card you can access the Maine Newsstand and retrieve articles from the Portland Press Herald, Bangor Daily News and other local papers back to the mid-90’s.
- You can find all public documents (annual reports, media logs, arrest records) of the Portland Police Department here. These documents are in addition to the above links that cover Maine in general.
Demographic / Census Information:
- To find general information on race, the US Census Bureau is a good place to look. You can search for the percentage of persons of various races (self-identified) in the US as a whole or in specific geographies. The Census can also connect you to data on economic status, education attainment, housing status, and much more.
*Please note it is always important to look at the methodology of data collection, how the data is presented, who is collecting the data etc.
Portland Public Library is the library serving the city of Portland, Maine. The library system serving the city on the West Coast—Portland, Oregon—is called Multnomah County Library. Yet a quick Internet search for “Portland Library” positions our library in Maine at the top of the search results —so naturally, each and every month, we get some calls or texts that baffle staff and patrons alike until geographical distinctions are sorted out. But the puzzlement usually brings a smile. Our library colleagues love swapping stories about all the confusion between PWM (Maine) and PDX (Oregon).
Here’s a collection of our favorite tales of two cities.
A message arrived recently in our Ask-A-Librarian chat box: “What are the retirement communities in Portland like? Can you send me some information about retiring in Portland?” We sent back a variety of information, including links to retirement homes and a Wall Street Journal article about the benefits of fresh sea air. The patron wrote back that they had been looking for information about Oregon, but were now considering retirement in Maine!
The Public Computing area at PPL includes 3D printing services. Patrons email us their files and we correspond with a few questions and notify them when their 3D printed item is ready to be picked up. A patron called, excitedly asking for directions to the Main Branch so he could pick up his 3D print job. The staff person on the phone gave instructions for Congress Street and Elm Street, and the patron kept asking where these streets were in relation to 10th Avenue. There is no 10th Avenue in Portland, Maine, and he sheepishly admitted he was from Oregon. The patron offered to pay shipping for his 3D print job, or asked if we could donate it to someone locally—which we did, when someone serendipitously emailed the same file to be printed later that week!
Administration gets calls so frequently for Oregon-centric directions and parking that they’re able to give directions to the Multnomah County Central Library.
A Reference Librarian was similarly fielding a directions call. The patron on the line asked where the library was in relation to Boise, Idaho, where he was driving to the library from. The librarian earnestly answered: “East!” This earned a chuckle from both ends of the call.
Both Portland Public Library and the Multnomah County Library offer hoopla (a streaming video and music service à la Netflix), but selecting “Portland Public Library” and trying to log in with your Oregon library card is liable to frustrate. One of our staff fielded a call recently from someone struggling to get their library card to work with hoopla. Asking for a library card number clears up many mysteries for us, and it was soon clear the caller was not in Maine. But after learning he’d reached the wrong library in the wrong state, the caller was completely unfazed and asked for help with downloading his title anyway. Our staff member walked him through finding and selecting “Multnomah County Library” on the menu for hoopla access. We love our Oregon patrons, too!
A Reference Librarian spent a considerable amount of time on the phone with a person looking for a title that was available at PPL’s Burbank branch. Since the patron didn’t know where Burbank was, he asked if the book could be sent to Hillsdale instead. “Where are you calling from, sir?” concluded that call.
PPL receives advance copies of books from publishers that they think we might be interested in purchasing eventually. Our selector shelves frequently contain beautiful books about the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver travel, and Oregon history. The ME in PPL’s address must not have been a tip-off when these gracious publishers addressed their packages. We’ve been wondering if Multnomah County Librarians get advance copies of books on lighthouses in New England.
The Chat with a Librarian service at PPL gets so many questions asking for the city on the West Coast, we have a saved response:
While it is clear to us here in Maine that our Portland should be the first one that comes to mind—Portland, ME was founded in 1786 after all, more than fifty years before Portland, OR—Portland East Coast is still more than eight times smaller than Portland West Coast. That’s a population of 66,194 versus a population of…583,776. (Thus: so many more people with questions needing answers!) Why aren’t callers tipped off by the 207 area code when they’re dialing the number for the “Portland library”? Maine only has one area code, so all calls are local calls in Maine. Oregon, though, has four area codes, so 207 might just get lost in the shuffle.
Besides our names, Portland and Portland have a lot in common. Portland seems to be the coffee capital on the East Coast and on the West Coast; one travel site calls PWM the beer capital of the world, while CNN gives this distinction to PDX. PWM has a growing housing problem: PDX too. We also care about being sustainable cities—Portland, ME has a sustainability initiative, as does Portland, OR. Most importantly? Both Portland libraries have a history of awesome Bookmobiles (see below).
We love to think that the work we do in Maine affects people all the way across the country. Since we’re three hours ahead, it’s nice to imagine that while our West Coast colleagues are busy waking up and getting their library open, we’re picking up some of their urgent calls—and likewise, maybe after PPL closes for the evening, the other Portland is helping keep our night owls stocked with eBooks.
In the meanwhile, if anyone needs directions to the library in Portland, England, or Portland, Australia—we’re ready!
Portland Public Library staff joined scores of community partners this morning, led by United Way of Greater Portland, to celebrate the wonderful launch event for Thrive 2027, a statement of 10-year community goals for Greater Portland.
The vision for this effort, based on input from over 2,000 individuals and organizations, is to “see Greater Portland as an inclusive, caring, and collaborative community that focuses its resources strategically so that everyone grows and prospers through enhanced educational opportunities, financial stability, and healthy living.”
The three stated goals in Thrive 2027 express commitments to provide quality educational experiences for all children; and to bolster financial stability and optimal health through education, resources, and opportunities.
As your public library, we are deeply committed to provide our expertise and materials, community conversations, and special programming experiences so that everyone can discover new opportunities, learn and become informed to pursue these opportunities, and get support to navigate the systems…and THRIVE.