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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Open Data

We are seeking to make information more accessible through an open data initiative. Our goal is to build community trust, increase transparency and continue innovation in policing.
When I speak to community groups, I talk a lot about stats other than crime, from miles we drive a year to the average number of complaints we receive or the number of times we used force. People are often very intrigued by the different numbers police departments generate.

We were one of the first agencies in the country to deploy crime mapping, display our crime statistics on the web and successfully use CommunityStat as a way to meet and show neighborhood crime statistics, patterns and efforts to deal with blight. However, the type of data I refer to today will include more up-to-date crime stats and data that is different. While we will also expand the amount of crime-related statistics provided in this initiative, we will display the number of complaints we have had, the number of times various force is used and other information that historically police have not shared.
As you can see, we will continue our efforts to be progressive leaders in policing by providing as much of our activity as publicly as possible.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Limits of Transparency

The police department is one of the most visible and critiqued areas in local government. Transparency and dissemination of timely information to the public is critical in every corner of the policing world. Dealing with data privacy laws, while trying to be transparent and keeping the community informed, is a tough line for police administrators in Minnesota.
One particularly difficult incident occurred a few years ago when I terminated an employee in a use of force case that received a lot of media attention. Due to Minnesota law I was unable to publicly share that I had terminated the employee. Unfortunately, we are forbidden from releasing the employment information until final discipline occurs, which is after the grievance period or arbitration. The only information I could release was previous discipline, employment status and whether it was paid or unpaid. In this case, it was unpaid administrative leave even though the employee had been terminated.

Many in the community asked why I did not terminate the employee and were upset the officer's employment status was "administrative leave." Some believed we were not being transparent and I found myself frustrated that I could not talk more openly about what action had been taken.

The termination eventually became public when the union dropped their grievance, but it was tough from a community relations standpoint to not speak directly to the matter at the time. The fact the employee was terminated 18 months later was no longer news and the fact the employment status remained "unpaid leave" simmered in many communities.