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White House launches the Police Data Initiative

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Following the police-shooting death of Michael Brown and subsequent riots in Ferguson, MO, the Obama administration assembled a task force charged with somehow easing the adversarial relationship between law enforcement and the citizenry. The White House released those findings this morning and also announced that it is launching the Police Data Initiative, a 21-city pilot program designed to fast track solutions to the task force's suggestions.

The program centers around participating departments releasing 101 data sets that have previously been unobtainable by the general public. These include uses of force, police vehicle stops and officer involved shootings. That data will then be loaded into a a public safety open data portal that the the Police Foundation and ESRI are currently building. Once that's done, nonprofits Code for America and CI Technologies will develop an open-source software tool that will skim these data points from the IA Pro police integrity software that more than 500 departments already use nationwide.

But technology alone isn't enough to overcome the issues that exist between police departments and minority communities. That's why the PDI is also taking a long, hard look at getting problem officers off the street before they cause another Baltimore Uprising. Specifically, the PDI aims to reform so-called "early warning systems" -- internal law enforcement systems that, according to the WH press statement "identify officers who may be having challenges in their interactions with the public and link them with training and other assistance". Many police forces already have such systems in place, but nobody's ever really figured out which "warning signs" are most dangerous. As such 12 of the participating departments have agreed to submit their data archives on police/citizen encounters to researchers for in-depth analysis. Similarly, Oakland PD, which is had a body camera program for more than four years now, has partnered with Stanford University to build a software tool that skim the audio of these camera recordings to uncover interactions that go either really well or really badly. Boom, instant learning opportunity.

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