Trust is a critical resource in policing. The public’s perception of law enforcement impacts not only the tenor of their direct interactions with officers but their general willingness to follow the law. Critical to that trust is a belief that law enforcement is acting in a just and consistent manner. For the community to build that belief they require two tools: access to accurate information on the behavior of law enforcement and the ability to bring about change in how law enforcement acts.The Code for America team in Indianapolis is working with the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the community it serves by enabling stronger conversations and oversight around the most critical police professional standards information, and strengthening the existing feedback capabilities available to citizens.
Tiffany has 10 years of experience in politics and government administration and is a budding junior front-end developer. She's a member of Leadership Council for Girls in Tech LA, Women 2.0 LA and City Director of Women Who Code LA.
Laura is a user researcher who's interested in using technology to help people reach their goals. Most recently, she helped combine UX and Market Research to enable ModCloth to be customer-focused. She's been a member of the CfA San Francisco Brigade since early 2014. She holds a Masters in Information Management and Systems from UC Berkeley, and likes karaoke, bad SciFi, and good manners.
Chris is a software developer originally from Metro Detroit. Over the past four years he has worked in software delivery and process consulting for ThoughtWorks, Inc. on the US West Coast and in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is also the creator of web projects Metrophors and The Fauxmerican and a graduate of the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.
- Gary Coons - Chief, Division of Homeland Security
- Hannah Bain - Director, Constituent Services, Mayor's Office
- Lilly Endowment - Supporting the causes of community development, education, and religion in Central Indiana.
The community in Indianapolis has expressed a great deal of interest in knowing more about how the IMPD does their job. A December 2014 Open Forum hosted by the Indianapolis Star was widely attended and many residents expressed strong beliefs on how the IMPD worked in their neighborhoods. IMPD Chief Rick Hite agreed that he has a strong desire for public oversight of his department and called on citizens to “to come inside the department and spend time with [officers] as well and grill them in terms of asking them pertinent questions.”
The existing feedback mechanism for residents with feedback for the IMPD is the Citizens Police Complaint Office (CPCO). The CPCO has been trying hard recently to increase their visibility to residents and educate them on the complaint process and its efficacy.
Encourage trust building conversation and oversight between the community and law enforcement by automating the release of clean, contextualized, easy-to-understand information from the following datasets: Officer-Involved-Shootings, Uses of Force by Law Enforcement, Assaults on Law Enforcement, Resident Complaints Against Law Enforcement.
Help improve the process of submitting a complaint to the CPCO by humanizing the process, and building systems that help create feedback loops for complainants.
POLICE OPEN DATA CENSUS
Indianapolis’ enthusiasm for opening up their accountability data to the public quickly led to a discussion about how to do it well. This level of transparency around this type of information is not a widely adopted practice and any effort is likely to involve some degree of trailblazing. That said, there are numerous examples of other law enforcement agencies nationwide who have opened their accountability data to the public. While there are many worthwhile efforts to catalog civic open data initiatives, most only include crime data as their public safety component.
Seeing the opportunity for a single source of record on which law enforcement agencies were moving on this front, we began collecting every example we could find or were told about. We borrowed a number of UI features from the Oak Foundation open data census and constructed a website that allows anyone to browse open accountability datasets. We also developed an idea of what made for a good dataset and evaluated those available on that criteria. We also developed a form to solicit any missing or new datasets from visitors to the site.
Once we got a solid base of what existed, we synthesized the best practices from departments nationwide into a set of recommendations available on the site and a specific local set for Indianapolis.
Status and Next Steps:
The site is live and has had almost 1200 users since it launched. We’ve added multiple datasets based on the recommendations of users including Tulsa PD’s Complaint data as a part of a National Day of Civic Hacking event held there. We continue to solicit new and missing datasets and intend to amend the recommendations as we bring Indianapolis’ open data project to fruition.
IMPD OPEN DATA PROJECT
IMPD internally track a large amount of information about their officers’ interactions with the community. That information could lend incredibly valuable context to conversations residents want to have about policing in Indianapolis. This is also an opportunity for IMPD to clearly demonstrate to the community that they take transparency and accountability seriously and are deeply interested in giving residents the tools they need to drive oversight.
Taking highly sensitive data from an Internal Affairs tool and releasing it to the general public is not a task to be taken lightly. Recognizing this, we set out to find the best practices in use across the nation in our Police Open Data Census. By synthesizing the lessons of almost 60 data releases we have developed a strong direction in how Indianapolis should make its information public. In practice this means that any data must be accompanied by context that brings the public up to the department’s level of understanding around what the numbers in the data mean, explain any trends the department is aware of and what actions, if any, the department is taking to change their behavior. We’ve been engaging many potential users of any potential public release of information including neighborhood groups, advocacy and activism groups, academics and the local media to find out what information they wish they had about the IMPD, and what method and format would be most helpful for them to consume it in.
We are working closely with both IMPD internal IT staff and CI Technologies, the leading vendor of police accountability software, to automate the gathering, processing and publishing of the data collected by the department. We hope that by building a solution for the industry leading software provider, we will make it easier for other law enforcement agencies to redeploy our project in their communities.
Status and Next Steps:
We recently gained access to the full development database used by CI Technologies and have begun designing the technical infrastructure around the extraction of the data. Our user research efforts have continued as well, resulting in a variety of perspectives in how we will ultimately present the raw and contextualized information to a broad range of different public users.
The CPCO has made great strides in publicizing its role and process to the community. We realized early on though that several barriers still remained for residents looking to provide their feedback. Chief among those was the submission process which required a Microsoft Word document to be downloaded, completed, printed and physically brought into the CPCO at the City County Building during business hours. Additionally, the form was worded in the language of the legislation governing the office, which led to confusion about what the form was asking and how the process worked. The CPCO had also started several feedback programs of its own to try and gather complainant’s opinions on the complaint process.
We quickly identified that the submission process was a fantastic opportunity for an immediate improvement without a significant amount of development effort. We worked closely with Director White and her staff to reword the form in such a way that made clear what information was required and explained clearly what process the complaint would take. We uploaded that version of the form into a Google Spreadsheet survey that would be available online and allow complainants to submit without coming into the CPCO. Director White and her staff used the form internally as a test of the format and recently added a link to it on the CPCO’s website.
Status and Next Steps:
While the online form has helped lower the barriers for complainants, there are still strong opportunities to keep them up to date on the status of their complaint and collect their feedback on the process. We’ve heard comments from the community expressing doubts of the efficacy of the office and the difficulty in follow up seems to be a component to that issue. We are designing a feedback loop system that will allow complainants to opt into communications keeping them abreast of where their complaint is in the process and its eventual disposition in addition to allowing them to provide CPCO valuable information on how they can improve their workflow.
We are planning a series of Lunch and Learn-style training opportunities for City Hall and Public Safety employees on a variety of topics relevant to both their work and the knowledge and values of Code for America. Based on discussions with our partners, We are looking to begin with sessions around Salesforce and Agile Project Management.
EARLY EDUCATION SEARCH TOOL
As a part of 2015 Build Week we adopted the EarlyOakland early childhood education tool built by OpenOakland into a version for the parents of Marion County’s approximately 14,000 preschool aged children to better understand what early childhood care and education is available to them. We worked to gather provider data from Child Care Aware of America and allowed for filtering by Indiana’s voluntary childcare quality rating and improvement system, Paths to QUALITY.
CIVIC OPEN DATA POLICY
From the beginning of our Fellowship, Indianapolis and the Mayor's Office in particular has expressed strong interest in a Open Data Initiative that stretches outside of Public Safety. We’ve been advising the mayor’s office in sharing Code for America’s vast experience in open data policies and through connections to the Sunlight Foundation and similar cities who have successfully adopted open data policies .
OPEN INDY BRIGADE
We were excited by the opportunity to be in a city that had strong potential for the founding of a Code for America Brigade. Several community members braved whiteout blizzard conditions to come to our first interest meeting during Code Across and happily have emerged as solid and expanding group in Indianapolis. At last count, 48 members are tracking the group’s meetings and there are two hack nights scheduled for the near future.
Here are a few of the community events we’ve been privileged to have attended in Indianapolis:
- February 5th - Indianapolis Department of Public Safety Citizen’s Academy
- February 6th - Panelists speaking on “Big Data, Increased Transparency and Civic Engagement” at the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce’s New Economy New Rules breakfast series.
- February 8th - #hackINvTX Challenge Indianapolis Meetup
- February 12th - Indianapolis Public Safety Director for a Day
- February 20th - Indianapolis Creative Mornings
- February 25th - Peace Learning Center’s One Indy Conflict Resolution Program at John Marshall High School
- April 11th - Crown Hill Neighborhood Association Clean-Up Day
- April 13th - Citizens’ Police Complaint Board Meeting
- May 28 - Mapleton Fall Creek Neighborhood Association Crime and Property Data Research Group
- June 2 - Chicago Open Gov Hack Night
- June 6 - Indianapolis’ National Day of Civic Hacking
LAW ENFORCEMENT GATHERINGS
White House Working Session on Technology and Data Innovations for Transparency and Accountability in Policing
Thanks to 2012 Code for America City Partner and current Presidential Innovation Fellow Denice Ross we had the privilege of attending a convening of police chiefs and members of the law enforcement community to discuss how technology in general and open data specifically can help strengthen trust and community relationships. The session was very productive and it helped us immensely to hear such a wide range of perspectives and experiences. Indianapolis also took the opportunity to commit publicly to releasing the datasets we’ve discussed here. We also used this meeting as an opportunity to help Code for America’s Safety and Justice focus area begin its first community of practice on police accountability and transparency. Even in its first few meetings the group has provided us with great feedback on our technical architecture ideas and new ways to consider contextualizing released data.
Code for America BETA Safety and Justice Work Session
We were incredibly lucky that our city partners were able to attend Code for America’s BETA midyear conference to hear about the work the Fellowship teams are doing this year. Along with the Fellowship team in Vallejo, California who are also working on Police Community relations projects this year, we recognized the opportunity to connect our city partners with other law enforcement leadership in the Bay Area to discuss relationship and trust building and share successes particularly through the use of technology. We had an incredibly active session that got down to some of the fundamentals of the barriers police and the public often find between themselves.