White House report on improving trust and accountability in policing

The White House Criminal Justice Statistics Interagency Working Group recently published a report “Equity and Law Enforcement Data Collection, Use, and Transparency” discussing the importance of robust data collection, analysis, and transparency in non-federal law enforcement agencies to improve trust and accountability in policing.

The report highlights the need for complete, accurate, and reliable data on police activities nationwide as the United States currently has inconsistent data standards and significant gaps in data participation. The report found issues with the current status of collection, use, and transparency of policing data and discusses the challenges and variations in data collection and reporting across different law enforcement agencies. Additionally, it mentions the need for coordination and standardization within the federal data and statistical ecosystem, as well as the role of local law enforcement agencies in data collection and publishing.

Without proper measures in place in police data collection it is hard for the country as a whole to leverage data to inform evidence-based policies and practices for more equitable outcomes in policing.

The critical barriers to the effective collection, use, and transparency of policing data was outlined, with major themes including:

Absence of National Data Standards and Guidance: The lack of uniform, accurate data hinders efforts to identify and address bias in policing based on individual characteristics. Varying data reporting requirements and organizational capacity across different initiatives and law enforcement agencies create challenges and gaps in nationwide data. The absence of nationwide guidance and standards, including data definitions and governance, leads to additional costs, software complexities, and difficulties in comparing data across jurisdictions. 
Lack of Internal Capacity and Vendor Barriers: Police departments require more technical and data resources to effectively manage, analyze, and publish data. Limited resources make data management a low priority, and agencies may lack the necessary tools and expertise. Collaboration, sharing of resources, and partnerships with universities can help address capacity constraints. Software vendors can contribute by creating user-friendly products that automate data collection, streamline reporting, and protect victim privacy.
Fear of Mischaracterization: Law enforcement agencies are hesitant to share data due to concerns about misinterpretation and potential negative consequences. They believe that data should be presented alongside the broader context of policing to avoid misunderstandings. Positive metrics and transparency about policing activities can build public trust and facilitate constructive engagement.
Lack of Accessibility and Culturally-Informed Practices: Making data accessible and actionable to stakeholders and the public is crucial for reducing inequities. Transparent data release through various channels, such as dashboards, online portals, and tiered access systems, promotes transparency, trust, and productive engagement. Partnerships between law enforcement and community-based organizations can support culturally-informed data collection practices and improve public safety.
Inconsistency of State Data Reporting Mandates: Voluntary federal reporting and varying state reporting mandates contribute to gaps in nationwide data. Limited participation in federal data collections and patchwork reporting requirements result in insufficient data to provide a comprehensive picture of policing in the United States. Some stakeholders recommend mandatory reporting at the federal or state levels to improve data collection, while others emphasize the importance of guidance, funding, and encouragement from the federal government.

Addressing these barriers requires establishing national data standards and guidance, enhancing internal capacity and vendor support, ensuring accurate representation of data to prevent mischaracterization, improving data accessibility and culturally-informed practices, and promoting consistent reporting mandates at the federal or state levels. These principles emphasize the importance of public trust, community engagement, data-driven decision-making, and collaborative efforts to improve law enforcement practices.

Local, state, federal, as well as vendor and community collaboration needs to occur in order to make police data better for all. Local leaders need to work to promote data collection and accountability, states need to mandate detailed data collection, federal agencies need to collaborate to simplify and standardize data collection, vendors need to collaborate with police on providing software that makes data more accessible, and finally community feedback and collaboration needs to occur by and involving data and technical experts and civil society in decision-making.

Improving data collection and sharing is crucial for enhancing police accountability and efficiency and increasing public trust.

This post was created with the assistance of OpenAI ChatGPT.


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