Rutland City Police get White House invite~ RH May 22, 2015
Staff Writer | May 22, 2015
Along with big-city police forces from Los Angeles and New Orleans, the Rutland City Police Department was one of 21 invited by the White House to participate in President Barack Obama’s Police Data Initiative.
“We were fortunate to be part of the conversation,” Capt. Scott Tucker said. “More small police departments look like us and that got us invited, along with all the work we are doing here with community-engagement building and with our crime analyst.”
The data initiative is an outgrowth of Obama’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing, which was announced in December to improve policing and the community’s trust in police.
The participating police departments will release a combined total of 101 data sets — use of force, police pedestrian and vehicle stops, and officer-involved shootings, to name a few — not previously available to the public.
Each department, Tucker said, is releasing different data.
“We agreed to the public release of crime incidents, arrest reports and the use of force by type,” he said. “In Los Angeles, officers are involved with shootings regularly, but we don’t have much of that, so we will look at use of force in general.”
The White House has outlined several goals for the initiative:
— Use open data to increase transparency, build community trust and support innovation.
— Use technology to identify problems, increase internal accountability and decrease inappropriate uses of force.
— Make police open data easy to find and make it easier for agencies to share data with the public.
— Help data come alive for communities through mapping and visualizations.
“There are 16 specific recommendations to create external transparency and open data sets,” Tucker said. “It’s about how we meet our obligation, making sure everybody feels they can trust law enforcement.”
As part of the data collection, participating police departments must find ways to make the data open to the public in a machine-readable format, which means anyone could research and find all data easily.
“This is exciting stuff,” Tucker said. “We are in the process of redeveloping a new web site. Our current website is not well suited to this.”
Tucker was invited to a one-day working session on data innovation at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in April. He met with data scientists and chiefs from larger cities to talk about what they are currently doing.
“It was interesting to see all the big-city chiefs and the kind of things they are working toward,” he said. “This is exciting stuff.”
To keep the conversation going, the 21 departments have a 30-minute phone call every Thursday, he said.
Long before the White House invitation, Rutland officers started developing data mapping of crime statistics and using that data to target crime areas more quickly. City police can pinpoint specific days, times and locations of high-crime activity.
A recent addition of a crime data map to their Facebook page allows the public to track crime by location.
“The open-data initiative is another way in which the Rutland City Police Department can continue to be on the forefront of best policing practices in the country,” Acting Chief David Covell said.
“Certainly having a better informed community as to what is going on in their neighborhoods and at their police department creates a greater sense of trust,” he said, “and fosters better communication between the department and the community.”