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Ferndale Police Partnership

In partnership with the Ferndale Police Department, I successfully participated in the Police Data Initiative, working closely with city, county, state, and federal agencies, as well as the public and key nonprofits. During that process I used techniques such as card sorting and feature-dot voting to design an information architecture that fostered transparency while addressing privacy issues and police safety. I analyzed traffic citation bias and launched an open data portal. And I developed an open source model that could be extended to other Michigan cities using the same IT systems.

Problem

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In 2016 the Ferndale Police Department committed to releasing 3 community-interaction datasets as part of the White House Police Data Initiative. However, without the resources to pursue it, nothing was done until the department partnered with the Citizen Interaction Design (CID) program in 2017.

Task Force

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Through the CID program, I worked to convene a community open data task force comprised of local community activists, police reform experts, police department representatives and elected officials. This task force met to guide the process and ensure that information shared with the public was relevant and had the appropriate context. Ferndale is only the second department in the country to engage a community task force in guiding its open data initiative from the outset. With the task force’s guidance, we prepared datasets of officer demographics, community interactions, and six years of crime data.

Open Data Portal

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Continuing into the summer of 2017, I worked as the CID Open Data Fellow with the City of Ferndale to create an open data portal and broaden the work started by the Police Department. I convened a Records Management Task Force to catalog the city’s records in each department and prepare them for digitization and release. I supported the release of the new city website, and coordinated its release with the new open data portal. And I worked with various stakeholders to release and analyze datasets of interest to the public, including city zoning, new development, fleet vehicle efficiency, and more now available on the portal.

Capacity Building

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Sustainability was a key priority for the initiative, and I worked to create open data processes and documentation, awareness and training, and began the process of proposing a City Council Open Data Policy Directive.

Community Outreach

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I also enabled the Ferndale Police Department to participate in the 2017 Ann Arbor Data Dive as a community partner, producing a working prototype of a Police Use of Force tracker and database being developed and implemented by the department to improve accountability and transparency.

Analysis

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Thanks to this strong partnership, I was able to successfully defend the master’s thesis, “Looking Beyond the Veil of Darkness: Police Traffic Citation Bias in Ferndale, MI,” a preliminary Veil of Darkness analysis and an adjusted census benchmark analysis of racial bias in Ferndale Police Traffic Stops from 2011-2017, done in cooperation with the Ferndale Police Department and Ferndale City Managers.