California Governor Signs OpenJustice Legislation

New legislation approved as Department of Justice launches data collection platform for 'use of-force' reporting.

by Samantha Young, TechWire / September 22, 2016
Photo with modifications by Flickr/Salvaje

Californians will soon have the ability to check local crime rates, arrest demographics and the actions of law enforcement, courts and correctional institutions in one place.

Legislation signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown requires the California Department of Justice to publish valuable criminal data on its transparency website for the public to easily access.

Bill author Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, praised the governor for signing a measure she hopes will improve transparency, accountability and community trust.

“By making the mountains of valuable criminal justice data available to the public in a comprehensive way, we can build stronger bridges of understanding and trust between the criminal justice system and the citizens it serves,” Irwin said in a news release Wednesday.

The bill builds upon CalDoJ’s OpenJustice Web portal launched last year by Attorney General Kamala Harris, who sponsored the measure in the Legislature. The website is home to data sets such as arrest records, crime and clearance data, and officers killed and assaulted.

Earlier this year, population and demographic information, unemployment rates, poverty rates, and educational attainment levels were added to the portal in an effort to enrich the data with city, county and state statistics. Reports on racial and identity profiling and officer and civilian-involved uses of force will soon be added, according to the Department of Justice.

On Thursday the Department of Justice announced a new all-digital data collection platform that law enforcement agencies will use next year to report officer-involved shootings and other police “use of-force” incidents.

In a statement, Harris said data and technology “have the power to dramatically increase transparency and accountability in our criminal justice system”

As many as 60 percent of local agencies currently submit crime data to the California DOJ on paper, according to the Assembly floor analysis of the bill. The new law directs local law enforcement to transition to digital reporting, which supporters say will allow the state to more frequently update the statistics in its Web portal.

The law also directs the Department of Justice to evaluate the transition from summary crime reporting to incident-based crime reporting, reporting its findings to the Legislature every year until 2019.

The Web portal is also designed to replace the current annual report delivered to the governor every year that details the previous year’s criminal statistics with dynamic, customized information online that will engage the public.

This article was originally published on TechWire.