Coming in 2016: Improvements in criminal justice, law enforcement open data

The Cleveland Consent Decree includes numerous references related to the collection, analysis, access to and use of data related to police department work. But our central metropolis is far from alone in its need to upgrade and embrace data for purposes of improving the criminal justice system.

As “Which Cities Share the Most Crime Data?” points out, the impending increase in quantity and quality of crime-related data derives from the work of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, launched in December 2014. Recommendations in the Task Force’s interim report led to the launch of the Police Data Initiative several months ago to, “…encourage police departments to ‘better use data and technology to build community trust.'” The initiative began with 21 cities and has expanded to many more, although with varying degrees of success, at least this far in.

What does high quality and quantity look like – and who’s doing it?

New Orleans is arguably the queen of open police data, at least in terms of the quantity of information it provides. New Orleans has placed its entire calls for service system online since 2011, offering the public a significant opportunity to evaluate its police force. A recent analysis of the data by several local media outlets found that the New Orleans Police Department’s response times had increased dramatically. Longer response times had led to fewer investigations, which in turn had deflated crime statistics by around 6 percent. After the news reports, the police department changed its policy regarding how crimes were reported.


Sacramento, California, has provided several hundred thousand calls for service dispatches annually for the past three years. Sacramento’s open data portal is also impressive in the amount of detail it provides about each call for service — including when it occurred, when an officer arrived on the scene, the reporting officer’s badge number, and 22 additional data columns — but only goes back to 2013.

Dallas provides a staggering 97 columns of data. These — among other things — may describe injuries to a victim and his condition, or whether police say a gang was involved, or if a crime was drug-related.

The change won’t happen overnight, by any estimation. But news about what other states and municipalities are doing area steady and encouraging:

New NYPD Website Gives Public Greater Access to Citywide Crime Data

State to Improve Police Use-of-Force Data Next Year Under New Law (California)

Here’s to hoping that a year from now, “Death toll from violent cops is a guessing game” will be an obsolete concept.


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