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In some cities, citizens worry that police officers use violent tactics far too often. How many officers really use excessive force, and what is the most effective way for cities to combat this?

In this lesson, students compare two distributions of complaints against police officers. They analyze the fraction of complaints that officers are responsible for and evaluate the effectiveness of policy proposals in each scenario.

Students will

  • Given a histogram of excessive force complaints find the number of officers with a given range of complaints
  • Use the distribution, mean, median and mode of a dataset to determine what value is “typical” of the data
  • Decide whether a policy that targets the worst 10% of officers will effectively reduce the total number of complaints in each scenario
  • Understand how the distribution of complaints affects how a certain remedy’s effectiveness

Before you begin

Students should be able to calculate and use percentages, and they should also be able to read and make sense of a histogram.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices


This American Life, Malcolm Gladwell