Friday, March 31, 2017

Unique dataset

Open data is the rage in policing these days, spurred on by the White House Police Open Data Initiative, which sprang to life after the release of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing  report.

A handful of early adopters contributed some of their data to the portal, which is now hosted by the Police Foundation. With the launch of Lincoln's open data website, I thought we might offer up our data to the Police Foundation portal as well, and I have been in contact to do so.

Since the early months of the initiative, the number of police departments providing open data in the United States has grown dramatically. Lincoln is not exactly the first wave, although as a percentage, the number of agencies offering license-free, machine-readable datasets is still mighty small.

Those departments offering open data typically have such things as police dispatches, incident reports, traffic stops, arrests, and so forth. Some have use of force reports,  and officer-involved shooting incidents. Here in Lincoln, we really only have one dataset that is somewhat unusual, and I would venture to say it's actually unique.

What we have that would fit the definition of unique is this: a dataset consisting of tens of thousands of surveys asking citizens about their recent experience after actual police contacts, and also about their perceptions of safety in the neighborhood where they live.

This survey, our Quality Service Audit (QSA) was originally developed in conjunction with the Gallup Organization in the mid-1990s. It is a telephone survey conducted by Lincoln Police Department student interns, volunteers, and recruit officers in training. Surveyed citizens have had recent police contact in one of three categories: arrested or cited, crime victim, driver in traffic crash. 

The survey is not random: it is only conducted with citizens who have had recent police contacts of these types; it only surveys citizens who surveyors were able to reach by telephone; and the volume of surveys completed is dependent on the availability of surveyors,which fluctuates throughout the year.

While many police departments conduct surveys, very few of these survey people who have actually had recent police contacts, even fewer of those include surveys of people who have been cited and arrested. And I am pretty comfortable in saying that nobody has two decades of individual row-by-row records open to the public: 78,134 survey responses from 1996 through 2016.


Anonymous said...

A while back, you posted this on your TWitter account.

"12 accidental discharges reported to LPD in past year. 5 people shot—luckily none killed. 6 shooters had concealed carry permits."

Why the mention of the concealed carry permit? Doesn't seem germane to the situation.

Why didn't you didn't mention things like....?

- If the guns being used in the act of committing a crime.
- If the guns were in the possession of people prohibited from having them?
I realize Twitter only allows for 160 characters but the inclusion of the concealed carry permit holders seems more than a bit agitation.

Tom Casady said...

Just seemed like a large percentage, too me. This is simply a function of more people handling more firearms more often. Accidents happen.

darndog said...

If the guns were in the possession of prohibited people surely they would NOT have a concealed carry permit. Half of REPORTED accidental discharges were by "trained" concealed carry permit holders? Perhaps training is lacking.

Steve said...

Training is somewhat lacking. I was the first person to get a permit in Nebraska, and I'd be the first to agree with that statement. At the same time, we're talking about a Constitutionally protected right. Nothing in the Constitution says anything about requiring training to bear arms. For most who obtain a permit, it is so that they might legally carry a firearm to protect themselves, their family, or others in the event of an attack of some kind. Do we really want to restrict who can defend themselves? What if we proposed legislation that required voters to have some knowledge of civics or of the candidates or issues upon which they voted. You think voter ID laws are disenfranchising? Just wait until someone proposes that!

Certainly, it is a good idea to know more about a gun than which end the bullet comes out. On the flip side, even if you didn't have a permit to carry legally, and you had no knowledge of guns other than what you might have seen on TV or in the movies, if your life was threatened, or the lives of your loved ones, and there was a gun available, would you not use it in an attempt to save lives?

I think people have a duty to protect themselves and their families. I don't think the government has any right to deny them the exercise of that duty. I don't particularly want felons, or those with mental disabilities to have access to guns, yet I would never deny them the right to defend themselves with whatever means were available to them.

I just read an article saying that a majority of people on the terrorist watch list that applied to purchase firearms were approved. Is that any worse than letting someone carry a gun who doesn't know proper gun safety techniques?

Keep in mind, these were accidents. Some, if not all, of the people shot were the gun owners themselves. I doubt any of them shot themselves on purpose.

Is there a risk involved in allowing citizens to carry firearms? Absolutely. That risk is minuscule compared to the risk of letting people drink alcohol (no training needed there), letting them drive a 4,000 pound vehicle (again, very inadequate training required), or dozens of other things we allow people to do in the name of freedom.

There are no guarantees of a safe life, or that stupid people will not do stupid things, sometimes injuring or killing themselves or others. Also, remember, that of these 12 incidents, half of them did not hold a CHP. Why punish CHP holders, or hold them to higher standards than everyone else?

Anonymous said...

Since we are off topic, I'll come in from left field. Director, seems that arson investigations are slow and inefficient, and to be honest, some of the fire inspectors are down right conspiracy theorists. To increase efficiency, knowledge, and expertise do you ever see LFR or LPD sending inspectors to a police academy or LPD detectives to an arson/fire academy to get the investigations happening under one roof without the hassle and communication hang ups? A nice model is OFD. They're Arson Investigators complete the OPD police academy, then Attend a fire academy. Then you have fire inspectors with arrest powers and proper training regarding criminal investigations. I think LPD and LFR would benefit from a similar model. I understand tho the costs of such a change and that the current investigators from either agency may not be worth the investment at this point in their careers. But for future younger investigators, I think it would be wise. Thoughts?

Tom Casady said...


First of all, this isn't my department (It's Building & Safety), and If I've got a suggestion to make, it would be privately and directly to my counterpart--the department director.

I will, however, render my opinion about training. Training is good and is necessary, but it is not a substitute for practice. Fire inspectors are selected from the ranks of firefighters, and generally have several years experience, which includes responding to may fires and working on many fire grounds. Detectives and investigators at LPD have several years of experience, and you don't get that job unless you've had a track record of very good work as a uniformed officer in such things as investigating crimes, effective interviewing, case preparation, quality investigative report writing, and so forth. By the time you get a position in criminal investigation, you've interviewed thousands of victims, witnesses, suspects, testified in scores of trials, written thousands of investigative reports, and so forth.

I suspect the same is true with fire inspectors when it comes to examining fire scenes and making determinations about the cause and origin of fires. I don't think you can turn a police detective into an effective fire investigator by sending her to a training session, no matter how good. I just don't think you can replace the experience of many, many reps at fire scenes. Likewise, turning a firefighter into a criminal investigator. In a large enough jurisdiction, with a sufficient volume of investigations, there are many more opportunities for repetition and experience-gathering.

We don't have that many fires. We have even fewer arsons (75 last year--including many that were exceptionally minor, like leaves being burned in a driveway). The opportunity to gain experience in casue-and-origin determination is thus limited, and is already spread across several fire inspectors. But the techniques for developing suspects and closing cases are pretty much the same for any other crime: who has a motive, something to gain, access to the property, an axe to grind, too much time on their hands? What other evidence might exist, social media posts, physical evidence, people the suspect talked to, surveillance video from nearby cameras, vehicle descriptions, and so forth? The gumshoe detective work--interviewing, canvassing, brainstorming, information gathering--that leads to case closure is no different for arson than for burglary, theft, fraud, etc..

There is a certain logic, in my mind, to fire inspectors focusing on what they are most experienced at: cause and origin determination; while police investigators focus on what they are most experienced at: interviewing, case preparation, working with informants, detecting deception, following leads, making arrests, preparing affidavits, and the like.

The separation of duties, however, requires close collaboration and communication.

Think of it like this: you need to have a hernia repaired, and you're scheduled for surgery on Friday. Assuming equivalent training, would you want a surgeon who did five of those last year, or would you prefer a surgeon who averages around five every week?

Anonymous said...

How many accidental discharges were reported by Law Enforcement officers during the same time period?
Gun Nut

Tom Casady said...

Gun Nut,

I don't think we had any ADs in the past year. I was, however, regaling my Crime Analysis Unit staff a couple of weeks ago with tales of various LPD accidental discharges through the span of my career. One of the reasons I knew we'd experience an uptick in ADs with the implementation of concealed carry in Nebraska is the knowledge (based on my experience as a police officer) that when more people handle firearms more frequently, the chances simply increase that mishaps will occur. If they occur with police officers (and for that matter, military personnel) who get pretty extensive initial and ongoing training, they will certainly occur--and probably more frequently--with a larger population of people, many of whom have comparatively less training.

Anonymous said...

Completely off-topic, but what are the chances of getting the traffic camera at 14th & O added to the public feed on the public works/traffic engineering web site? I think the taxpayers should be able to see some of the clown show down there, especially on weekend nights. I thought you might have better luck than myself getting that one added to the many linked cameras.

Anonymous said...

Does the data set account for the city's continued disregard for keeping police staffing at an acceptable percentage of the city's population?

Anonymous said...

Is this the same guy as the one doing rolling target practice on I-80 on 4/11? The age is right. If so, he's a real piece of work.

Tom Casady said...

Anonymous 9:31,

Name is right, age is right. That's about all I can determine. I'd say it's midway between a possibility and a probability.