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Research Handbook ( for Security Force Monitor containing guidance on SFM research methodology, data model and toolsets
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Research Handbook for Security Force Monitor

About this Research Handbook


This Research Handbook contains information about the data and tools used by Security Force Monitor, a project of the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute. Currently, it has three main sections:

  • Methodology: Security Force Monitor has a four phase approach to researching a country's security forces. This section outlines our process.
  • Data Model: This section describes the way that Security Force Monitor structures the data it collects, outlines the main entities in use (persons,organizations and incidents) and details how each field is used.
  • User Guide: The data created by Security Force Monitor is published online on, a platform with powerful search functions, clean and interactive views of data on persons, organizations and incidents.

The Research Handbook is a work-in-progress, and will be updated during the course of the work of Security Force Monitor.

Contributors {#about_contributors}

Tony Wilson, Tom Longley and Michel Manzur from Security Force Monitor wrote the first version of this Research Handbook.

Security Force Monitor has partnered with DataMade to create DataMade has operationalized and refined Security Force Monitor's data structure, created a powerful open source platform to put the data online, and made a significant contribution to the concept and design of

James McKinney - at the time with OpenNorth - was a major contributor to the development of Monitor's data model, adapting Popolo (an international open government data standard) and developing the specifications for the Monitor's research tool.

How to contribute

The Research Handbook source is hosted on Github, and published here as a Gitbook.

When reading it, we are sure you will find things that can be improved - please let us know what needs to be done by emailing us, submitting a pull request, or filing a issue on Github.

About Security Force Monitor {#about_sfm}

The Security Force Monitor is a project of the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute that aims to increase the transparency and accountability of police, military and other security forces. Security forces are often opaque, making it difficult for human rights researchers, journalists or others engaged in public interest work to find the answers to even simple questions, such as:

  • Who is in charge of the specialized anti-riot police unit?
  • What army unit has jurisdiction over what areas?
  • Where did this commander previously serve?
  • When was a particular police unit based in a specific city?

The Monitor compiles public information on security forces with a goal of aiding journalists, human rights groups, litigators and others to hold security forces accountable. We take information from media, civil society, governmental and other sources, compile and analyze to produce:

  • Dossiers on police, military and other security force officials that show their career histories including their dates of service with different units, ranks, roles, and titles
  • Charts of relationships between units over time
  • Maps that provide the generalized location (down to the city level) of security forces and the areas in which they operate

More information about Security Force Monitor can be found on our website.

License {#handbook-license}

The Security Force Monitor Research Handbook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

![License: CC BY 4.0]( BY 4.0-lightgrey.svg)

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