Liftoff: Rutland’s Public Safety Portal

October 22, 2015 7:32 am PST | Data as a Service
Photo: EPA

Last month, the police department of Rutland, Vermont, launched its public safety open data portal, in partnership with Socrata. The public safety portal is the latest step the Rutland City Police Department has taken in its transformative efforts to rebuild the public trust. As one of the 27 American law enforcement agencies chosen to participate in the White House Police Data Initiative, Rutland’s hard work and its new portal are reverberating nationwide.

Public Access to Crucial Datasets

The first datasets provided via the new portal give Rutland citizens transparency and insight in two key areas: use of force incidents and community engagement opportunities.

Use of force covers “any resistance above compliant handcuffing,” explains the department in a press release. The dataset includes the race and age of the subject and the officer, the nature of the offense, any injuries sustained, the level of force used or resistance encountered, and many other factors. Citizens can filter for specific variables, or research patterns or rates of particular types of incidents. They can also just check in on the fly to see an open, up-to-date snapshot on the use of force in Rutland policing.

The community engagement dataset covers participation by police department staff “at public meetings, speaking engagements, educational opportunities, and community activities.” The data includes date, time, location, attendees, and a general description of the event. The public can keep tabs on the level of engagement of their peacekeeping force, while the police can easily share their specific, tangible work to get to know neighborhoods and issues.

The department expects to quickly add a third dataset on incident level arrests.

What It Means for Rutland

Like many American cities, Rutland had been strained by a breakdown in police-community relations, and concerns over racial profiling and unjustified use of force. Now, Rutland is helping lead the coast-to-coast shift in policing climate, away from an approach of warrior-minded enforcement and toward a more community-minded focus on guardianship. The city’s open data portal plays a major role in this endeavor.

In their press release, officials note how the open data portal demonstrates the police department’s continuing alignment with — and commitment to — the two goals of the Police Data Initiative.

The first goal is to use open data to build transparency and increase public trust — this is the bedrock goal of the Initiative. Through the portal, the Rutland Police Department provides facts that are immediately accessible and readily comprehensible to average citizens. This leads to open conversation, which in turn builds civic engagement and community trust.

The second goal of the Police Data Initiative, to “increase internal accountability and effective data analysis,” has potentially lower-profile, but equally productive, outcomes. As Rutland police officers are increasingly able to nimbly and speedily analyze their department’s own data, they can identify crime hotspots and then use targeted policing to more efficiently protect the public. Better data also helps the department to refine and share best practices, illuminating process improvements that save time and get more officers out into the community.

The combination of transparency, trust, and face-to-face interaction has the power to change — and save — lives.

Learn more about how open data can increase public safety and public trust in your community at Socrata for Public Safety


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