The Police Data Initiative Year of Progress

How We’re Building on the President’s Call to Leverage Open Data to Increase Trust between Police and Citizens

In the fall of 2014, we began our time in the Administration as Presidential Innovation Fellows. Our service took place against the backdrop of a national conversation on police reform and how to increase trust between police departments and the communities they were sworn to protect and serve.

Emerging from that conversation, The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing highlighted the opportunity for technology and data to play a central role in building trust between law enforcement and communities while enhancing public safety.

As civic technologists, we had an idea to build on that opportunity:

What if we could help enable a new culture of open data in law enforcement agencies where police collaborate with their tech counterparts in local government and the community to publicly release incident-level, structured, machine-readable data on policing?

Today, the White House is welcoming 39 law enforcement agencies from across the country who are leading the way toward developing a culture of open data in policing through the President’s Police Data Initiative. Joining these agencies are community stakeholders, civic technologists and data scientists, researchers, and local officials.


Read the rest of this article by Clarence Wardell and Denice Ross on the White House Medium channel…

Ten Years After Katrina: New Orleans’ Recovery, and What Data Had to Do with it

map Open data matters most when the stakes are high

As a New Orleanian, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. In the days of the aftermath, we had a tremendous effort ahead of us, and government at all levels did too: Understanding the extent of the flooding, conducting damage assessments, providing temporary housing for displaced residents, rebuilding the levee system, distributing rebuilding dollars, and issuing building and demolition permits. One of the great lessons we learned through the experience was the power of data to illuminate our path to recovery.

Ten years ago, the concept of “open data” had not yet taken hold within the government.

Back then, accessing even basic government data involved a formal public-records request and often came with restrictive data-sharing agreements. As a result, in post-Katrina New Orleans, the public didn’t have easy access to many government data sets tracking recovery activities. The public could view some government records, one at a time, but because the data were not available in their entirety — in a structured, machine-readable, “open” format — citizens couldn’t download, analyze, or innovate on these data sets.

Read the rest of Denice’s article on the White House Medium channel…


Using Data to Transform Policing in New Orleans


Last week, New Orleans held an event to preview three datasets on policing they plan to open to the general public (use of force, 911 calls for service with arrival times included, and field interview cards).  At the event, city officials worked with a group of young coders to build apps powered by this newly unlocked data.

Read more in this White House Office of Science Technology & Policy blog post by Denice Ross and U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil…

Does Open Data Build Trust? A story of Demond, police data, and his grandmother’s recycling bin


Rising ninth-grader Demond Fortenberry opened his first city data set: “Use of Force” records created by the Public Integrity Bureau at the New Orleans Police Department. As part of a three-day event engaging youth to build apps on top of soon-to-be released policing data sets, he was one of the first New Orleanians to ever see these records.

Read more of Demond’s story on the White House Medium channel

(View the email that announced this piece on the White House Blog.)



The path to open data (structured, machine-readable, and incident-level) in policing isn’t yet well-charted, and as a result, the privacy, technology, and political considerations can initially seem daunting. Often, the best way to begin an open data initiative is by delivering quick, low-risk wins to your stakeholders. Here are five ways jumpstart your police open data initiative…

Read this guest Code for America blogpost by Denice Ross and Jim Burch/Police Foundation


Lantern Live Mobile App

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, seemingly simple tasks such as refueling your car, were incredibly difficult. Few tools existed to determine which gas stations had fuel and the power to pump that fuel.

To help address this problem, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces the launch of Lantern Live – a mobile app that allows users in disaster-affected areas to report on the status of local gas stations, find fuel, and easily look up power outage maps from local utilities. Lantern Live is part of the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative, and represents the ingenuity and ethos found across Initiative projects.

Read the White House OSTP blog post by Brian Forde, Denice Ross and Derek Frempong

Building Open Data from the Ground Up: Eight years after Katrina

Code for America Summit 2013

The story of eight years of progress toward open data in New Orleans, and how using a lean startup approach with the Code for America team to develop a thin, lightweight, public-facing app influenced the data architecture of the city’s enterprise land management application.

Next City: The Data Dividend

(Sep 2010) Next City: The Data Dividend

Christian Madera interviews Kurt Metzger (Data Driven Detroit), Denice Ross (Greater New Orleans Community Data Center) and Amy Liu (Brookings).

“When it comes to making cities better, accurate and abundant data are powerful tools. In New Orleans and Detroit, which share many challenges — including vacant property and high crime and poverty — open data can help citizens improve their communities, officials strategize for effective change, and foundations and developers identify investment opportunities.”

Read more at Next City…

An App We Can Trust: Lessons Learned in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Gov 2.0 Expo 2010 Plenary Session

How many people have returned to New Orleans? What is the current population of neighborhoods? Businesses, city planners, and neighborhood advocates need these answers to determine where grocery stores should be reopened, where schools should be placed, and where volunteers should be deployed. This presentation outlines five generalizable lessons from this work about building a web app that people can trust.