Code for America opens police data in Indianapolis

CfA, Indianapolis partner for open data toolkit for police data

In efforts to foster police data transparency and accountability in Indianapolis, the city’s Code for America fellows and the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety created Comport, an open data toolkit that lets  public safety teams quickly create an open data site by uploading existing internal affairs data and adding contextual information about policies and programs.

Project Comport was launched Nov. 14 and opens internally collected data – on officer-involved shootings, resident complaints against law enforcement, assaults on law enforcement and uses of force by law enforcement --that has never been made public before, according to Code for America. The team partnered with police accountability tech vendor CI Technologies to build an open source tool to make it easier for law enforcement agencies using IA Pro police integrity software to extract and open up data.

The Project Comport platform was the result of the Code for America’s Police Open Data Census, a compilation of what it found other cities were doing to open police data, including information on how frequently the data is updated and if it is machine readable, available in bulk and, if so, in what formats. As a survey of police interaction datasets found or submitted thus far, the census helped Indianapolis and its Code for America fellows come up with recommendations for how the city should open its own police interaction data.

“The City of Indianapolis had asked us to find out what other cities were doing, how they were releasing this data,” said Tiffany Andrews, Indianapolis’s 2015 Code for America fellow. “We really wanted to focus on not just opening up the data,” she said, but also provide context on the quality of the data.

In compiling the census, the fellows synthesized the lessons of nearly 60 data releases  that emphasized the importance of providing context for each dataset. “We worked with Indianapolis to decide how we wanted to open the data,” said Laura Ellena, another fellow. “We decided that it was important to have both full downloadable datasets of the machine-readable data” and also some charts to summarize what’s happening in the datasets and explain any trends for the many residents who are not experts in data science.

That means that besides the  charts, graphs and statistical data by location, year and demographic, Project Comport also includes information such as the size and population of each of the city’s jurisdictions, definitions of different kinds of physical force and racial demographics of the city and its police force.

The Comport tool is in its alpha prototype stages and currently is being used only by Indianapolis.

Other interested agencies can view and redeploy the open-source publisher component of Comport, meaning its data visualization tools. The connector, however, is not open source, and agencies will have to build their own or apply to Code for America to be a next-round participant. The organization is currently taking applications for at least three additional law enforcement agencies to participate and use Comport next year to create their own open data sites.

According to Andrews, Comport is still highly focused on information associated with citizen-interaction data and the internal affairs databases of participating agencies. Tackling additional information, like body camera footage, is dependent on the format of the data or footage, where it is stored and what kinds of software or platform is already being used.

“The goal of the project isn’t just to put open data out there,” Ellena said. “We’re really interested in what can happen after the data is available -- what kind of conversations and collaborations between the community and the department of public safety can come from opening the data.”

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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