Police Transparency

There is surprisingly little published information on police activities or data analysis on their actions by outside sources. At the time of this writing, fivethirtyeight has only published 2 articles in all of 2020 with analysis police actions. Almost nothing comes up on my google searches of mathematical analysis of police data. There is no way to ground ourselves in facts if data scientist community members cannot get their hands on data to analyze and validate the stories we tell ourselves.  In a world that is becoming more and more divisive in terms of the political narratives being presented in the media, I think we have a duty to validate the stories we tell ourselves.

As a community of data scientists, we learn and create change with our data. Our analysis changes the strategies our employers. Our commitment to data and facts helps our company’s leaders make better choices for the financial future of the company.  Should we not use the same skill set to make the communities we live in safer and more equitable?

I live in Twin Cities, Minnesota. We were the epicenter of police protests in May 2020 after the death of George Flyod. As I was nursing my newborn through this crisis, I was surprised and stunned at how little outside analysis there was about police efforts. We had videos and narratives, but very few facts that both sides could agree on.

Twin Cities is a shockingly segregated area. Back in 2015, I published about the Parable of Polygons. A wonderful analysis that vi hart and Nicky Case put together about how small choices can dramatically reduce segregation and increase diversity. It doesn’t surprise me much that our cities, whose housing and community inequalities are so great, are also a home base for other inequalities.

Many Twin Cities cities have police activity transparency commitments. As I researched this, I saw that the transparency is often focused on “Crime Statistics”. Police departments provide summarized views of the type of crime that happens in the cities. I used these summaries in the past to help me decide on where to live when I first moved to the Twin Cities. But they do not provide insights with the lens of police activity. We can’t use data to learn about police activities if the data presented to the public is only focused on the crimes investigated.

Minneapolis Dashboard
Saint Paul Crime Statistics
Roseville Transparency Page
Saint Louis Park Crime Maps and Statistics
Brooklyn Park Crime Statistics

These summaries do little to give a data scientist the level of detail they need to complete causality and/or correlation analysis. In order to get true transparency, data scientists need to have access to the data of police activities in the Twin Cities. And then we need to let the data speak to us and share our findings with the public.

 

About Samantha from SocialMath

Applied Mathematician and writer of socialmathematics.net.
This entry was posted in Communicating Math and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Police Transparency

  1. 360DigiTMGIN says:

    I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post.
    360DigiTMG

  2. Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson at CUNY Staten Island did a project a couple of years back (I believe in conjunction with a class he was teaching) about collecting the sort of police data you seek. You might contact him for thoughts/tips (and you can tell him I sent you).

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