Last encounter

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

Happy New Year!

This is my last column of the year, and the issue also includes probably my last feature story in the Fatal Encounters series. Primarily due to this series, I had an extraordinary year. When I originally planned out the stories, this last piece was supposed to look at a comprehensive year's worth of data regarding officer-involved homicides in the United States, but as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. It was just too much data, and despite the fact that thousands of people have contributed in many ways, it'll be a while before we'll call any calendar year complete.

A lot of people have commented that we had good timing with this series, but honestly, nobody was telling me how smart I was two years ago, when I started work on it. In fact, they mostly told me I was wrong with my assertion that the government was not collecting this information.

I'm saddened that this last story is launching in the environment of mourning with the murder of two police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. In the last year, I've learned more about the dangers of being in law enforcement than I ever could have imagined. You know, a lot of people have made comparisons between the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Bunkerville, Nevada, standoff with the Bureau of Land Management, but I don't think many have made the connection that two Las Vegas Metro officers, Igor Soldok and Alyn Beck, died as a direct result of that standoff. Similar outcomes, but as different as black and white. My thoughts go out to all those families, and I fervently hope one result of this project will be fewer dead police.

And that's one thing that has not changed in the year that's waning as I type these words: I still believe that better data regarding officer-involved violence will help us understand the patterns that overlay these incidents, and if we pay attention to what the data tells us, we'll have safer streets for everyone.