California DOJ to unveil website to provide data on law enforcement interactions with public

Associated Press

The California Department of Justice is unveiling a state-run website to provide data on law enforcement's interactions with the public.

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Set to be announced Wednesday by Attorney General Kamala Harris' office, the database is the culmination of months of work aimed at improving transparency and government accountability after law enforcement interactions with the public sparked a national dialogue on police practices over the last year.

The initial "OpenJustice" dashboard includes three datasets: law enforcement officers killed or assaulted in the line of duty; deaths in custody, including arrest-related deaths; and arrests and bookings. State officials say the dashboard will likely be expanded to include additional data sets.

Also included is a brief analysis of the numbers, completed through a partnership between the state and professors at the University of California at Berkeley. Some conclusions so far are:

— California law enforcement agencies have reported 345 officer deaths between 1980 and 2014, with an average of about 10 officer deaths reported annually.

— There were 6,837 deaths in custody reported between 2005 and 2014, or an average of about 685 annually.

— About 76 percent of 1,202 arrest-related deaths reported from 2005 to 2014 were homicides by law enforcement officers or staff; the average age of the victim was 34 years old.

— Over the past 30 years, reported property and violent crimes have been cut in half.

— The arrest rate peaked in 1989. And men are about 3.5 times more likely to be arrested than women.

The office has also reached out to Stanford University; the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of California at Irvine; and the University of Southern California to have their criminal justice and law professors and data scientists analyze the information and provide further details that could help improve law enforcement practices.

Harris has come out in support of a state Assembly bill that would require law enforcement to report use of force incidents against the public to the state. Officials say if the data is reported to them, it will also become part of what's provided to the public online.

Officials say they don't know of any other department with a similar effort and hope that their actions will inspire other states to follow suit.