By Jim Burch, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
The Police Foundation has been exploring the use of open data as a means to improve transparency and accountability and to encourage and support innovation in policing. To pursue these goals, a Public Safety Open Data Portal will be launched to highlight what local agencies are doing in the area of open data and to offer the public and professional users the ability to see, visualize, and analyze the data in one location.
In light of the Police Foundation’s work, the White House has asked the Police Foundation to participate in its Police Data Initiative (PDI), which aims to encourage local agencies to release data about their operations as a way of improving the relationship between the police and the communities they serve. The Public Safety Open Data Portal will provide access to the open data released by local agencies participating in the PDI (more than 20 are currently signed up to participate) and to open data released by other agencies.
An important objective of the Foundation’s Portal is to provide the context that non-law enforcement users need before delving into public safety data. For example, it is important to explain the differences between calls for service and incident data and to provide visualizations that show how officer-involved shootings often occur in the most dangerous parts of a city, for example. Additionally, the Portal allows users to explore broader contexts supported by open data from other sectors, such as the links between public health and public safety.
Crime mappers and others interested in spatial analysis can benefit from the Portal by accessing data from many different agencies and mapping it online through Esri or Socrata visualization tools, or downloading the datasets for analysis in ArcGIS, for example. To see the beta version of the Portal, visit www.publicsafetydataportal.org