May 18, 2015
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The Richmond Police Department is one of 21 law enforcement agencies in the nation that will begin sharing data with federally-appointed scientists as part of a White House initiative to increase data-driven community policing and reduce and prevent improper behavior by law enforcement.

On Monday, President Obama was set to visit one of the cities, Camden, N.J., to discuss his administration’s police reform initiatives including the Police Data Initiative.

Participating police departments will share their data on officer encounters with top technologists, researchers, data scientists and design experts, according to the White House. The data will be used to bolster police transparency in cities and can be analyzed in order to establish best practices to reduce use of force and bolster community policing efforts.

In December, President Obama launched the Task Force on 21st Century Policing to encourage the nation’s police departments to do exactly what RPD has already done in Richmond. The task force was launched in reaction to multiple high-profile incidents where unarmed black men were killed by police officers, leading to protests and looting in cities such as Ferguson, Mo., New York and Baltimore.

In recent years, RPD has been an example of community policing. Chief Chris Magnus has been praised for installing data-driven, community policing tactics and trainings to reduce use of force. Last year, officers used force in just 6 percent of arrests and the department has had only one fatal officer-involved death since 2007.

Despite those numbers, Magnus says he’s still taking steps to improve RPD’s interaction with community members. He penned an opinion piece last weekend in the Contra Costa Times on ongoing steps being taken by the department.

RPD has been facing heat from community members over the Sept. 14 fatal shooting of unarmed Richard “Pedie” Perez, 24, outside a Richmond liquor store. An investigation from the district attorney’s office found the shooting to be justified, but Perez’s family, friends and supporting community members dispute those findings.

Still, the situation is more dire in cities like Camden, N.J., where the county police cobbles together 41 systems that encourage duplicate data entries, making it difficult to conduct analysis on trends, the White House said. To fix that, starting today a volunteer team of technology experts will begin a two-day design session with Camden police to come up with a better system.

“By upgrading its technology practices, the Camden County PD will have more efficient data supply chains, and will be better positioned to use that data to improve its internal operations and to identify and solve policing problems in a more timely manner,” the White House added.

Other jurisdications taking part in the White House Police Data Initiative (PDI) so far include: Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC; Cincinnati, OH; Columbia, SC; Dallas, TX; Hampton, VA; Indianapolis, IN; Knoxville, TN;  Los Angeles, CA; LA County, CA; Louisville, KY; Montgomery County, MD; New Orleans, LA; Newport News, VA; Oakland, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Rutland, VT; and Seattle, WA. 


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.