Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Launches First-of-its-Kind Criminal Justice Open Data Initiative

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the launch of OpenJustice, a first-of-its-kind criminal justice open data initiative that will release unprecedented data while being interactive and easy to use. The tool consists of two components: a Dashboard that spotlights key criminal justice indicators with user-friendly visualization tools and an Open Data Portal that publishes raw data from the California Department of Justice’s statewide repository of criminal justice datasets.

The Attorney General was joined at the announcement by Congresswoman Karen Bass, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, and University of California Berkeley Professor Steven Raphael.

“Being “Smart on Crime” means measuring our effectiveness in the criminal justice system with data and metrics,” said Attorney General Harris. “This initiative puts forward a common set of facts, data and goals so that we can hold ourselves accountable and improve public safety. The California Department of Justice is proud to join with many in the law enforcement community to make our work more transparent.”

OpenJustice embraces transparency in the criminal justice system to strengthen trust, enhance government accountability, and inform public policy. Recent events in California and across the nation have highlighted the need for an important conversation to take place between law enforcement & the communities we are sworn to protect.

The Dashboard includes three important data sets that tell part of the story of the relationship between law enforcement and communities: (1) Law Enforcement Officers Killed or Assaulted in the Line of Duty; (2) Deaths in Custody, including arrest-related deaths; and (3) Arrests & Bookings.  For each metric, the Dashboard features interactive web tools that allow the public to explore these key criminal justice indicators over time and across jurisdictions. 

The Open Data Portal is an online repository of downloadable criminal justice data in raw form available to the public. This tool will enable researchers, civic coders, and journalists to help tackle seemingly intractable problems in the criminal justice system.  As part of the initiative, Attorney General Harris is expanding her work with law enforcement to improve reporting by eliminating unnecessary requirements and modernizing data reporting processes.

OpenJustice builds on Attorney General Kamala D. Harris’s leadership deploying 21st century “smart on crime” approaches to improve public safety.  As California’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer, Attorney General Harris has worked to embed new technology into the DNA of the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies across the state.  This has involved cutting-edge SmartJustice tools including a web platform for law enforcement that integrates multiple state and local databases to provide aggregated criminal justice information, as well as a mobile portal so officers have access in the field at their fingertips. She has also championed using data to measure outcomes in public education and understand their connections to the criminal justice system.

Attorney General Harris has also taken several steps to strengthen the trust between law enforcement and California communities. She directed a 90-day Review of her Division of Law Enforcement’s policies on use of force and implicit bias, convened the state’s law enforcement leaders to share best practices through her 21st Century Policing Working Group, created the first POST-certified course on Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias in the U.S., and developed a pilot body-worn camera policy within the Department of Justice.

In the coming months, the Dashboard will expand to spotlight more metrics from across the justice system and a broad array of datasets will be released to foster accountability and trust.

Below are key finding from the Justice Dashboard:

Law Enforcement Officers Killed or Assaulted

  • Since 1980, there has been an average of approximately 10 law enforcement officer deaths reported per year; 180 deaths resulted from unlawful incidents and 150 were accidental.
  • In 2014, there were 14 deaths of law enforcement officers, which is an uptick from the previous 5-year average of approximately 8 deaths per year.
  • Since 1980, 1 in 10 officers on the street were assaulted yearly. In that period, there have been over 280,000 assaults against law enforcement officers reported, or about 8,000 per year.  There are approximately 77,000 sworn officers in California in recent years, which has grown from 40,000 in 1980.

Death in Custody

  • There were 6,837 deaths in custody reported between 2005 and 2014; an average of approximately 685 per year.
  • Approximately 61 percent of deaths resulted from natural causes. The next leading cause of death is homicides by law enforcement at 14 percent, followed by suicide at 10 percent
  • Over half of deaths in custody (~55%) were reported by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) followed by county sheriffs (~23%) and local police (~15%).
  • Manner of death differed considerably across agency type:  Deaths reported by police were primarily homicides (nearly 70 percent), while sheriffs and CDCR reported a large proportion of deaths due to natural causes and suicide; 17% of deaths in jails were suicides.

Arrests & Bookings

  • Over the past 30 years reported property and violent crimes have dropped by half.
  • The arrest rate peaked in 1989; since then misdemeanor arrests rates have been falling steadily and felony arrests rates have dropped slightly.
  • Men are roughly 3.5 times more likely to be arrested than women.
  • There are large racial/ethnic disparities in arrest rates that hold across men and women. African Americans are the most likely to be arrested at any age, most notably between 18 and 40. Asians have the lowest arrest rates. 

To view all of the data released today, visit OpenJustice (http://openjustice.doj.ca.gov).

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