Report Launch: Obtaining, Organizing and Opening Police Misconduct Data

Access to data about policing has become the subject of increased advocacy and police misconduct data has become increasingly available in the United States, leading to a growing cottage industry that has arisen around collecting, analyzing, and publicizing information about policing. Unfortunately, these efforts are often disconnected from organizing aimed at effecting change by reducing and eliminating police profiling, violence and criminalization. 

In an attempt to address these issues and discuss the potential benefits and harms of collecting and disseminating policing data, WITNESS co-hosted a 4-day online convening in collaboration with the Invisible Institute and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Full Disclosure Project in November 2021.

The event brought together grassroots organizers, advocates, data scientists, journalists, lawyers, advocates and funders. The full report from our convening is now available and aims to share the key principles, tensions and practices that we discussed; help guide ongoing conversations and development of best practices; and inform future project planning and funding decisions. 

Some of the key themes that emerged from our conversations include: 

  • The importance of protecting privacy, agency and humanity of people whose experiences of policing are reflected in the data, and offer prevention tools and material support.
  • Involve those who are most directly impacted by policing in the data collection, analysis and dissemination process. 
  • There is no “objective” data.
  • Decisions about which data to collect and how to describe and publicize it are subjective and political.
  • Institutions and organizations with greater access to data must commit to making the information available and sharing it with directly impacted communities.

This convening builds off WITNESS projects and collaborations with groups like El Grito and Berkeley Copwatch in which we have co-created resources and guidance to support grassroots organizations in collecting, organizing and analyzing videos and data about the police. In 2018, we also co-hosted a convening in Chicago with the Invisible Institute to cover similar topics. Learn more about this work, the convenings and our partners here.  


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