Comparing ‘The Counted’: A Juxtaposition of Two Police Cultures

By Kendra Pierre-Louis, Michael Drachkovitch, Jyotishka Biswas, and Tiffany Wang

The data say that in 2015, 1145 people were killed by the police in the United States. We wanted to tell this story because the question of how many people the police kill and who they kill has become a contentious issue. Our goal was to get people to think about the issue of police killings in a less inflammatory manner. Rather than frame the debate around culpability in individual cases, we wanted to raise the question of the broader culture in which those deaths take place.

With this goal in mind, we choose to target an audience comprised of citizens who were predisposed to think that the police are good, but haven’t thought about the issue too deeply. We choose to use a comic based on data from the Guardian and contrast it with data that on police killings in Iceland – a country that ranks 15th for gun ownership but has had only one killing in their 72 year history.

Comics are useful in kind of storytelling, because they provide a clear simple narrative that is both less threatening. Many people might look at a graph and either not be able to interpret the data or feel like it exaggerates the scale of the problem. The mix of visuals and text helps to keep the reader engaged while asking a fairly evocative question: doesn’t a six year old in the United States deserve the same level of compassion as an armed gunman in in Iceland?

Our call to action – asking for the reader to write their police chief to encourage them to support an open dialogue with their community about promoting more compassionate policing – is a safe, non-accusatory message pointed at a decision maker who can influence police culture.