Transparency, trust, and accountability can be improved by releasing appropriate law enforcement data or statistics via the agency’s website(s) in an open format (i.e., machine-readable, such as a .csv file) that individuals in the community can access and analyze. Different from releasing data on a webpage or within a PDF file, open data is available for users to download so that they may conduct their own analyses. It allows the public to use the data in ways that may not have been previously attempted, which can provide new insight and understanding into crime, safety, and community well-being. Furthermore, open data can be used to facilitate conversation and engagement with the community, and it conveys an agency’s willingness to be transparent. Here are some points to consider:
1. Hundreds of government agencies are now releasing open data, including more than 20 law enforcement agencies participating in the White House’s Police Data Initiative.
2. The quickest and easiest way to start is to release data that is already published via the web, such as data in an annual report. Making this same data available in an open format will allow the public to see all of the data and analyze it according to their own interests.
3. Many agencies are releasing calls for service and incident data (some in near real-time), and others are releasing data on officer-involved shootings, assaults on officers, and pedestrian and traffic stops. Some agencies are beginning to release data on community satisfaction and engagement.
4. The data being released must be carefully reviewed to ensure compliance with local and federal laws regarding privacy, confidentiality, and other factors. Data on sex offenses and other sensitive calls, incidents, and crimes are often substantially limited in terms of location attributes and other potentially identifiable information.
5. Open data can be released via an agency’s website as a downloadable file or through one or more commercial platforms for publishing open data.
- Police Foundation’s Public Safety Open Data Portal
- Code for America’s Open Data Playbook
- Five Things You Need to Know About Open Data in Policing
In an effort to provide helpful suggestions in areas that have not yet been fully studied or evaluated, we have included ideas for responses and activities that may not yet be considered evidence-based or evidence-informed. Therefore, not all actions and strategies included within this App are evidence-based or evidence-informed.