Noah Hubbard's Data Blog

Artist's Statement

By Noah Hubbard

January 29, 2019

For my Pittsburgh Data Project, I focused on policing in Pittsburgh. I initially found a dataset on the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center's website that dealt with police training, and that first struck my interest. Before I even looked at the data, I wondered if there was a shift in training around the time the Black Lives Matter movement became mainstream. I remember being in high school when that movement first started, and it was honestly the first time I had really heard about issues of police brutality. This made me wonder if there was any correlation between this time period, and changes in the way police were being trained. When I downloaded the data, and began to explore it, I found that my hypothesis seemed to be true: around 2014, several categories saw a significant increase in the amount of hours devoted to them. These categories were: "Weapons", "Mental Health", "Procedural Justice", and "Less Lethal". Unfortunately, there were no clear definitions of the categories, so I did have to make the assumption that these categories would be related to reducing police violence, but I do think this was a safe assumption. From there, I created a line graph using Plotly to show how the hours devoted to these categories changed over time. Other categories in the dataset that I did not include in the graph include: "Union", "Leadership", and "Technical", these categories did not see a significant jump in 2014, which leads me to believe that this was not simply an increase in investment in training, but a concerted effort by the Pittsburgh Police Department to focus on police violence.

From here I took this one indicator to explore police violence in Pittsburgh and the United States in general, and how it has changed since around 2013-2014. While this is an extremely complicated topic, and one that cannot easily be summarized in 1000 words or less, I tried to paint a picture of Pittsburgh as a city that has had its shortcomings in relation to police violence, but has also made efforts to improve. I used the end of my essay to try to suggest further changes the Pittsburgh Police Department could make to continue to do better. I think further research could be done to make this project more interesting. Particularly, finding data on police misconduct in Pittsburgh, and creating a graph to see how it has changed over the past 6-10 years would be very interesting. This type of data is not easily available, but if found, would make for an interesting addition. Overall I learned a lot about the issue that I previously did not, through researching for this project, and was surprised by some of the statistics that I came across. Particularly, I found the article about small municipalities often having the most mismanaged police departments to be particularly interesting.

Regarding website design, I tried to do my best to make a visually appealing site, that made the content easy to look at. I have never used html or css before, so I had some trouble trying to make it look the way I wanted. For the graph, I simply embedded the html code from Plotly into the website at the bottom.