This year, the Indianapolis fellowship team is helping the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety open data around police interactions with residents, such as use of force, complaints against police, and call response times.
Before we could make recommendations to Indianapolis on how to open their data, we wanted to know what other cities were doing. Unfortunately, given the relatively new nature of these efforts, there wasn’t a great way to know who’s already sharing this kind of data. After going to the White House Roundtable on Technology and Data Innovations for Transparency and Accountability in Policing, we knew that more cities are opening data as part of the Police Data Initiative, and we realized that others might benefit from easily understanding what’s out there.
I’m excited to share the Police Open Data Census we’ve been working on – a collection of the police interaction datasets that we’ve found so far.
How You Can Contribute to the Police Open Data Census
We’re hoping this data – presented in a format that is easy to access and understand – can help city residents, community groups, researchers, and journalists better understand what policing looks like in Indy neighborhoods, and engage with police and community leaders on pressing issues.
If you’re involved with open data, a city employee, or aware of similar work going on in your community, please contribute additional data sets to the census.
How to Navigate the Policing Open Data Census
We were inspired by the U.S. City Open Data Census, so we started with their site’s overview page and then customized it for police interactions. While the U.S. City Open Data Census does a great job of tracking traditional criminal activity datasets, we aimed to dig into more specific topics that tell a deeper story of policing.
We asked some of the same questions the U.S. City Open Data Census asks to evaluate their datasets:
- is the data freely available online?
- is the data machine readable?
- is the data available in bulk?
- is the data up-to-date?
We also added two new ones that seemed particularly important to us:
- is context provided for the data?
- is incident-level data available instead of just aggregated numbers?
While the Police Open Data Census is a small first step in our work with Indianapolis, we’re looking forward to sharing progress throughout the year. Opening up this type of information is fairly new, so best practices are still emerging. We hope that surfacing current work will enable conversations about balancing transparency and privacy, as Mark Headd has discussed in his Case Study from Philadelphia.
Again, if you know of policing data sets that aren’t yet listed, please let us know so they can be added. Twenty-one cities committed to opening data as part of the Police Data Initiative, so we expect plenty of updates in the coming months.
If you’re part of a Police or Sheriff’s Department that wants to get involved in a Community of Practice with other cities working on these kinds of open data projects, let us know you’re interested by taking this survey.