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Menlo Park says it will release more police data to public

 

Menlo Park is planning to release to the public 2015 data on police department demographics, calls for police service and traffic collisions as part of a national program called the Police Data Initiative.

Menlo Park's Police Department recently became one of 53 police agencies in the U.S. to participate in the initiative, launched a year ago and billed as an effort to encourage police departments to release more data to the public.

On data.menlopark.org, the department will release the data by June 1, said Menlo Park Police Commander William Dixon, who in April sat in the audience at a White House panel discussion on the program.

In joining the program, the Police Department agreed to voluntarily publish certain data sets to the public.

Cmdr. Dixon said that Menlo Park is one of the smaller police agencies participating so far. Other Bay Area participants are the San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco police departments.

At the White House panel discussion, law enforcement officials from Los Angeles, Louisville and Dallas said publishing data in a way that is easy for the public to understand has had positive results.

In Dallas, Police Chief David Brown said, excessive force complaints dropped 67 percent while deadly force dropped 45 percent in 2015. In 2016, there have been four excessive force complaints, compared to an annual average of 150 to 200, and two police-involved shootings, compared to an annual average of 18 to 25, he said.

"We believe the data we have belongs to citizens," he said. "We are the caretakers of that data."

Being in the middle of Silicon Valley, Cmdr. Dixon said, there's a higher expectation than might exist elsewhere in the country to embrace new technology and stay abreast of emerging law enforcement practices.

The challenge for the city, he said, is not necessarily in gathering the data, but in releasing it to the public without compromising confidentiality where it is required.

The department has to be careful to not breach privacy in cases where juveniles or victims of domestic violence or sexual assault are involved, he said.

Eventually, he said, he hopes to add new police datasets that can be made available to the public.

Go to data.menlopark.org to see the data when it is released.

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