The California police department is using Veritone’s Contact app to streamline the collection of perceived demographic data on individuals stopped by officers.
A California law adds to the data that law enforcement agencies must collect and report after stops. To avoid the resultant paperwork and time burden, some of those agencies are using a cloud-based software solution.
The Racial Identity and Profiling Act (RIPA) requires that officers report detailed perceived demographic information in an effort to prevent racial profiling and bias, but providing that data could take five to eight minutes per report, said Justin Murphy, captain of the Escondido, Calif., Police Department.
“An officer contacts quite a few people in a day, so if you start adding five to eight minutes on every stop, that could potentially add an hour or more to an officer’s day just filling out paperwork that we weren’t doing before,” Murphy said.
Using Veritone Contact, however, it takes officers less than two minutes, he said. The department contracted with the company over the summer and is rolling out the app to all of its 160 officers now to be ready to begin officially collecting the data Jan. 1, 2022, in accordance with RIPA’s requirements.
Accessible via a smartphone or the mobile data terminal in a police vehicle, the app asks officers a series of questions about their perceptions of someone’s race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation upon approaching them at a stop. For instance, when an officer pulls someone over and greets them through their vehicle window, that is when the perception starts, Murphy said.
Additional data includes why the officers made the stop, what law covers the reason for the stop, whether a search was conducted and whether any contraband was collected.
After answering the questions, officers hit submit, and their supervisor gets notified of the new report. After it is reviewed and approved, the data moves to a queue of files that will go to the Justice Department by April 2023, according to RIPA requirements.
The app, hosted in the Criminal Justice Information Services-compliant Azure Government cloud, is designed so that users can create custom questions to collect additional data not required under RIPA. For example, Murphy said his department could ask if the people being stopped are city residents. If the resulting data shows that certain demographics are stopped frequently, the department would be able o see how that compares to overall city demographics.
Because RIPA requires that data by anonymized, officers and supervisors check the two free-text fields for any personally identifiable information (PII).
“Veritone Contact has a really cool feature where you can just click on a tab on a report – or select them all -- and it will only show the text boxes that might have PII involved, so [supervisors] can just scroll through multiple reports [to] look for PII,” Murphy said.
In the future, Veritone will add artificial intelligence algorithms to the app to speed reporting and reviews even more, said Jon Gacek, head of government, legal and compliance at Veritone.
“Making sure we protect PII is important, and over time we’ll add capabilities to allow agencies to turn on additional AI help,” Gacek said.
The idea for Veritone Contact came out of discussions with the Anaheim Police Department, which was looking for a way to efficiently comply with RIPA but also use the data to analyze their practices. To that end, the initial goal was to build flexibility into the application so that individual agencies could create a workflow that best suits their needs, but Gacek said he expects the tool to evolve as more departments use it and come up with their own custom questions.
“We will have a more advanced set of reporting packages that they can utilize as part of the app,” he said, adding that Veritone will also have an application programming interface so if an agency wants to connect the app to a database, there will be a “spigot of data to create whatever dashboards and reports they want.”
DOJ offers agencies its own RIPA-compliance app free of charge, and other companies such as ApexMobile are creating apps, while some agencies are building their own. For example, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department “to share and collaborate with the California [law enforcement] community at large.”
Other agencies are incorporating RIPA compliance into existing tools. The city of Berkeley Police Department uses Esri’s Survey123 app, which is available to any locality through current Esri licensing.
A handful of other states, including North Carolina, Illinois, New Jersey and Missouri, have similar laws, but are not as far along in implementing them, Gacek said.