Police seek input as department plans release of certain discipline data

Baltimore police plan to post civilian complaint, use-of-force and possibly other disciplinary data online within the next few months.

Commissioner Kevin Davis announced the initiative at a public planning session Saturday, where several dozen patrol officers, technical experts and residents gathered at tables and brainstormed ideas on how to present what they want to see from the police.


"We know in order to become more transparent police department, there is a lot of hard work behind that, and that involves data," Davis said. "What do we know within our organization that the community wants to know — and deserves to know — that will help foster a better relationship and more understanding with the community?"

The Baltimore Sun wrote about civilian complaint data from a public information request it filed with the police earlier this year. It found deficiencies in internal investigations that led to most of the complaints being closed without conclusion.


Police have announced several reforms inside its internal accountability group, including more investigators and supervisors and better data tracking.

Police said they want to open the access to certain discipline and use-of-force data to residents on a regular basis. Experts say monitoring complaints, force events and other incidents in an officer's history can help prevent future problems.

At one table on Saturday, Baltimore police officer Seong Koo from the Western District sat with technical experts from the city's health department and the Johns Hopkins University. He answered questions about use of force and the civilian complaint process.

The tech experts spoke of data they want to see — and why. Rebecca Williams, an open data advocate with Johns Hopkins' Center for Government Excellence, said she hoped to see more data such as a summary of complaint allegations.

Organizers passed out sheets of sample data and graphs that included the number of complaints about police officers and their investigatory results such as "sustained" and "unfounded." Samples also featured categories such as "excessive force" and "harassment."

Session organizers wanted feedback about what people want to see.

"We want to see names," said one audience member.

Williams noted other projects that have gathered extensive police data elsewhere. For example, she cited the "citizen police data project" by Chicago's Invisible Institute, a journalistic production company, which included police disciplinary records including officers' names, complaint histories and discipline.

Baltimore police did not release officers' names to The Sun in its records request this past year, citing state privacy law.

Police held Saturday's session at the Enoch Pratt Library in North Baltimore. Ganesha Martin, chief of the Department of Justice Compliance, Accountability and External Affairs Division, said that it was a "first iteration" of ongoing work with Code for America, a nonprofit that helps governments improve data gathering and transparency. She said they hope to have it completed by the end of the year.

Martin spearheaded the initiative and said she got the idea last year while attending a conference about civilian review boards in Washington, D.C. There, she learned of a data transparency project in Indianapolis with Code for America. She applied for a grant and got it.

Davis said the city is one of about 100 police departments out of more than 18,000 across the country taking part in a public data initiative.


He said internal affairs data will be fed into "transparency" page on its website that will be regularly updated.

"We want to expose ourselves to all of our frailties when it comes to data collection," he said. "We're not as good as we need to be. We want to be better and can't do it without the community."


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