A Radical Approach to Open Police Data

PATF_Final_Report_Executive_Summary_4_13_16On page 112 of the report of the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, “Recommendations for Reform: Restoring Trust between the Chicago Police and the Communities they Serve“, there is a section about the publication of police data that might change the way we think about “crime data” in the #opengov and #civictech movement.

In the section on Early Intervention & Personnel Concerns, the main recommendation for this area is that the Chicago Police Department embark on the “design and implementation of a mandatory EIS that centrally collects data across a broad range of data points to capture information on the totality of officer activity”. This kind of system is typically called an “Early Intervention System”, or EIS.

But later in this section is a recommendation that is near and dear to my heart (disclosure: I served on the Early Intervention & Personnel Concerns Working Group for the Task Force).

Here’s the nub:

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The Audit Function of the Chicago Inspector General is Crucial to Good Government

Last week the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance giving the Chicago Inspector General the power, for the first time, to investigate the Council itself. Before they passed the ordinance, however, they stripped it of the provision that would allow audit power, which the office already has for the executive branch of City government. According to this year’s Audit and Program Review Plan, “the OIG Audit and Program Review (APR) section supports the OIG mission by conducting independent, objective analysis and evaluation of municipal programs and operations, issuing public reports, and making recommendations to strengthen and improve the delivery of public services.

Audits are conducted “in accordance with generally accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAS or “Yellow Book,” December 2011 revision) established by the United States Government Accountability Office.”

In other words, these are normal, common accepted practices in government.  The fact that City Council doesn’t want that is a bad sign for the integrity of the body.

Just for fun, I wanted to list the current audit & program work for 2016. The list is from November 2015, and it covers many of the fundamental topics that we care about in our city. The existence of an audit says nothing bad about any department— it’s just black-and-tackle good governance and oversight. Here’s the list:

All hail the Office of the Chicago Inspector General.

Chicago Inspector General

The Mayor + Accountability

It has been a remarkable couple weeks here in Chicago since a judge forced the release of a video showing the murder of Laquan McDonald.

I could link all day/ all night to the pressure for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In the news, in opinion, in the streets.

#ResignRahm

I supported Rahm Emmanuel for election in both 2011 and 2015.

As is my custom, I wrote a blog post explaining my voting decisions. I had a number of bullet points as to why I was voting for him in the February election, and I also noted “two discordant notes”:

The Mayor should post his schedule and list of the people with whom he has met in the administration of his duties. There’s no reason why he can’t do this. My guess is that he meets with lots of rich and powerful people, which is a great way to get big things done in a market economy. I believe that meeting with poor and disenfranchised people is worthwhile as well. You are what you measure.

There’s no reason for the Mayor to spend so much time and money on trying to remove and/or silence other elected officials who disagree with him on occasion. We’re a big city, with hundreds of thousands of adults living here. We can handle some differences in opinion/ approach.

The underlying agita here is that the Mayor just doesn’t care about poor people— that he doesn’t listen to anyone who 1/ isn’t rich and 2/ doesn’t already agree with him.

I wrote about his Sweater Ad during the election. That was when he “owned” the fact that he sometimes doesn’t listen. I was hoping that would change:

But I also appreciate processes and procedures, especially genuine ones that allow for real people to drive policy and solutions. I do a lot of this work in my professional life— I am deeply devoted hearing people and responding to their needs. It’s the most human thing we can do for each other. The goal is better lives, and that feels better.

In a second Emanuel term, I would love to see more structures for listening to residents. This is what elections are for— to elect the people we want, and to get them to make us feel the way we want to feel.

Let’s work with our Mayor on that.

But with the exception of the return of the budget hearings, there have been no structures for listening. I took photos at the first session. The mayor was forced from the stage in the second session, and once the third scheduled meeting was done, there was no more talk of the mayor appearing at open forums.

There is a persistent, abiding notion that the Mayor just doesn’t care what regular residents think. It’s at the core of his trouble.

Out of the river of damning text published about our Mayor and his inadequate response to the crisis of police violence and corruption, the words that hurt the most were in this Washington Post piece, “Rahm Emmanuel is in Deep, Deep Trouble“, published yesterday:

The natural thing to do would be to spend time in Chicago’s community rebuilding trust — listening to people instead of talking to them, Williamson calls it, stressing that Emanuel’s first priority should be how to keep Chicago governable rather than how to keep his job.

But mending relationships takes time, and as the protests on the streets of Emanuel’s beloved city make clear, the time for sincere action from Chicago’s mayor might have already passed in the eyes of those who matter.

I am accountable for my efforts in the political process. I voted for and advocated for the Mayor during the election. This is my accounting. And I crave this listening.

And, as he keeps saying, our Mayor is accountable to us. I want to help build those structures for listening that I wrote about back in March.  I want to hold him to his promises from back then and his “Justice, Culture, and Community” speech this week to City Council. The whole world sees him struggle now. It’s not pretty. I am disappointed.

Forward.

Three Great Places Named After Former Mayor Jane M. Byrne

As reported first by (who else?) Michael Sneed, Former Chicago Mayor Jane M. Byrne passed away today. I just drove through her highway interchange yesterday and was thinking that it’s an odd thing to name places like that after people.

When she died, I lamented that there was no natural (safe) place to gather in her honor, if anyone was so inclined. Chicago sage Andrew Huff was pretty certain that I was wrong, and it turns out I was.

There were three great places— all of which harken back to the projects she worked on and the places she loved— named after our former mayor this year:

I found them all in the legislation lookup tool maintained by the Chicago City Clerk— it’s a great resource; it has everything.

Here’s the paper copies of the legislation. I love all the lawmaker signatures. These things matter.

The only other place that might be appropriate would be where she lived for a while— the former Cabrini-Green apartment building where she lived for three weeks. One day at a time.

Bedroom Wall Colors

Monthly Parking (A Short Play by Daniel X. O’Neil)

Scene: There is a small but growing fire on the top floor of a parking lot in the early morning  cold in the downtown area of a major city.  (Actual address: 191 North Clark Street). There are seven or so fire engines, alarms going off, and a steady stream of grey smoke pouring out of the building. A parking lot employee drops pylons in front of the entrance. He works with the urgency of a person responsible for a building that is currently on fire. A Range Rover pulls up in front of a fire engine. An extraordinarily well-dressed and well-coiffed middle aged man gets out of the vehicle, moves the pylon,  and starts to get back in his vehicle. Another middle aged man crosses the street, pointing to the smoke.

Alerter: There’s a fire in that building. (points at smoke)

Range Rover: What?

Alerter: There’s a fire in the building. It’s on fire. (points at smoke)

Range Rover:  (not  looking up, getting back in car) I have monthly parking here.

Alerter: (moves the pylon back in place) But the building is currently on fire. The fire department needs to do their work in there.

Range Rover: I’m putting my car in there and then I’ll leave. (moves the pylon back in place, pulls up to the gate, is unable to enter. Swears.)