As part of today's announcement limiting military-style equipment sent to local police departments, President Obama also launched the Police Data Initiative, a move billed by the administration as a way to improve policing through IT and open data.
21 police departments taking part
According to the White House, 21 police departments — including Camden, New Jersey, where Obama made his speech — will be releasing "a combined total of 101 data sets that have not been released to the pubic." Those include information on police stops, use of force, and officer-involved shootings — information that will be collated and shared with the public through new software for the departments.
The initiative will also be a way for departments in the pilot program to improve data on "early warning systems" for officers who "may be having challenges in their interactions with the public," according to the White House — the kind of problems that can later turn into tragedies. The departments will share information with data scientists, who will work to link early indicators with later problems.
The White House also listed some specific partnerships, like one between Oakland PD and Stanford, where researchers will try to build tools to automatically pore through body camera footage for particularly bad or good interactions with police. Likewise, the Department of Justice will more generally work with researchers to find new ways of using body cam data.
The choice of Camden for the speech, which Obama cited as a model of new policing methods, was an interesting one. Although it certainly hasn't shied away from using tech to fight crime, that's sometimes proved controversial, with some going so far as to describe it as a "surveillance city."