Cincinnati Police Department and Cincinnati SPJ partner to offer local media seminar
By Tom McKee, President
Through the City of Cincinnati's transparency in government efforts, The Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) has unveiled a new Open Data Portal designed to provide easier access to crime incident reports and calls for service information.
The Greater Cincinnati Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is partnering with police to help journalists know how to use it.
The police and SPJ held two training sessions on the portal and new public records request protocols September 14th at the Police Academy in Lower Price Hill.
Twenty-two broadcast, print and magazine journalists from all the major Cincinnati area media organizations attended.
CPD Public Information Officer, Lt. Steve Saunders, said the goal is two-fold: help the media make public records requests more efficiently and in turn that allows police personnel to secure the information sought in a timely manner.
“We want to do everything possible to be transparent,” Lt. Saunders said.
Since January of this year more than 4,000 public information requests have been received through the Cincinnati Police Department's new online records request system. Annually the number jumps to 20,000 when prosecutorial and walk-in requests are considered.
Lt. Saunders said that’s a hefty work load that can be made more efficient by narrowing information requests to make them as specific as possible.
For example, body worn camera requests should be a specific as possible to the department can identify the footage and provide it in a timely manner.
City of Cincinnati's Chief Data Officer, Brandon Crowley, who administrators the Open Data Portal, went through a step-by-step tutorial on how to access the information on-line.
“Transparency in government is what we’re talking about,” he said.
Let’s say a reporter wants to find out information on the number of shootings in Avondale. He or she can create a database and spreadsheet using material that’s already on line.
Some information may be redacted to protect the names of victims from becoming public.
“Some can be used for good. Some can be used for bad,” Crowley stated. “We are championing the cause of transparency."
Information available vial the portal goes back to 2010 and new data is added hourly from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. seven days a week.
“If you drill down, what you will discover is that you can really get very specific,” Crowley told journalists.
Future plans call for extra categories to be included in the portal — officer injury, use of force and officer involved shootings.