By Denice Ross, U.S. Chief Data Scientist, Office of Science and Technology Policy
Chiraag Bains, Deputy Assistant to the President for Racial Justice and Equity and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Dr. Alex Piquero, Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice
Last May, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety. The EO directed agency actions to raise standards for federal law enforcement, encourage reform and best practices across the country, increase the level of trust between communities and the police, strengthen public safety, and advance a criminal justice system that respects the dignity and equality of every American.
The President’s EO underscored that robust data collection, data analysis, and data transparency at state, Tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) law enforcement agencies are central to this effort.
Every time a police officer pulls over a vehicle, the encounter creates data: the time of the stop, the location, the reason for the stop, whether the officer searched a person or property, and why. Every stop also involves driver details, such as gender, race and ethnicity, and age. And this is just one type of police activity. Answering a 9-1-1 call, dispatching a unit to an incident, turning on or off a body camera, and many other occurrences can all be logged, measured, and analyzed to strengthen accountability, identify trends, address disparities, and inform policy.
There are approximately 18,000 STLT law enforcement agencies across the United States, but we do not have enough information about how they collect, use, and share data about their activities. And the information that is available on police data practices suggests there is much room for improvement. For example, just over two-thirds of law enforcement agencies submitted crime data to the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) as of January 1, 2023. Less than half provided data to the FBI’s use-of-force database in 2022. Other types of police data — including data on citations, stops and searches, civil asset forfeiture, citizen complaints, and community engagement — are often not routinely collected, standardized, or made public. These data can provide a nuanced understanding of how effectively and equitably a law enforcement agency is serving its community.
To tackle these challenges, the President’s EO directed the federal government’s Equitable Data Working Group and the Domestic Policy Council to issue a report to the President that assesses current data collection, use, and transparency practices with respect to STLT law enforcement activities.
The federal government cannot produce this report alone. We need stakeholders from across the nation — including the general public and those who serve in law enforcement, build data systems for police departments, use police data, conduct academic research, and advocate for their communities — to help us understand the data practices currently in use and those that should be prioritized.
To that end, we are issuing a formal Request for Information (RFI) to help the federal government:
- Understand the current landscape related to data collection, use, and transparency practices with respect to STLT law enforcement activities;
- Recognize law enforcement agencies that have undertaken successful efforts to modernize policing data and to learn what could be improved; and,
- Identify how to provide guidance and support to STLT law enforcement agencies to implement best practices related to equitable data.
We welcome responses and feedback to this RFI, which will help us ensure that diverse voices inform how the federal government advances data collection, use, analysis, and transparency in policing. Identifying and scaling best practices will be critical to advancing effective, accountable policing across the country.