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California Gets New Police Shooting Database

El Cajon police officers confront Alfred Olango in the parking lot of a taco shop, Sept. 27, 2016.
El Cajon Police Department
El Cajon police officers confront Alfred Olango in the parking lot of a taco shop, Sept. 27, 2016.
California Gets New Police Shooting Database
California Gets New Police Shooting Database GUEST: Eric Liu, executive director, Bayes Impact

Despite all the attention directed toward police shootings recently there are no statewide or national statistics about police use of deadly force. That will be changing in California. Last year legislatures passed A.B. 71. Agencies will now have to report use of force incidents and there is new software for that. The executive director is here to talk about it now. Thank you for being here, Eric. Thank you for having me. How will police department submit the information? The information will be submitted on the data port that we created . It is an all digital web portal but all Police Department in California will have access to. What kind of information will be included in the information that is submitted. The unique thing about the data set are that it is at an incident level. So you can identify the individual officer or civilian. You have a high fidelity data set on the types of force used, what weapons and mental disabilities as well. You have a rich data set of each interaction. How soon do the agencies have to report the incident? Is within within a certain timeframe? The reporting period as at the beginning of 2017 for the 2016 period. When they input information into the system, it is at the scene of the incident. The San Diego DA's office did an analysis of shootings a couple of years ago and came up with a number of facts. Many of the shootings occurred when police arrived at the scene. Will officials be analyzing the information in this new statewide open justice database? That is the powerful thing about building this solution and this platform digitally. It will create the first digital database on use of force and it will be completely available to the public. It allows law enforcement to analyze the data across California in a completely digital way on the open justice portal on the California website. Is it the aim to form unified standards for police in California on use of force? Exactly. It is the first standardized data set, AB71, because if you look at different police departments they may define use of force differently. So this is trying to create a common standard and understanding around the issue. I know that one concern is that the information will be uploaded by law enforcement agencies themselves. Right now there is some mistrust between communities of color and the police. Will you be able to audit the data for accuracy? This is standard practice within the criminal justice base to be reporting information in this way. Our hope is that when this information is made available to the public it allows for a level of transparency and investigation on the public might as well. But the public will not be able to upload any data? No. It currently comes from law enforcement. But what you are saying is that since this is available to the public, if somebody see something and it is not the way it actually happen, will they be able to notify someone about that? That, among different things, there are a variety of different ways if you have that information to bring it to the public and communicated to law enforcement. There is no specific way within the open justice portal. But there are ways within community organizations as well as general public movements that allow for that sort of communication. Eric, how do you think this database is going to drive the debate over policing and police use of force cases in the state? How do you think it will change the discussion? I think it will be critical for two main reasons. The first one is really having a comprehensive understanding of police use of force. Right now we do not know how many use of force incidents are occurring. Our solution is to create that first data set to understand how police use of force happens on a systemic level. What police departments can we learn from what I think that is really important to drive policy and drive change. The second important component of having this information is really just the act of reporting. The fact that we are able to collect use of force data and Police Department have two by law report this information, it shows that they want to be more transparent and important news about their activities. You see a form of this eventually going nationwide? For us, that is the dream with our work. We are really trying to work they show that simple and open source technologies can dramatically reduce the cost of enabling massively scaled police data collection. We are talking about not only state-by-state but also at a national level. Our dream is that you have this covers -- combination of technology and policy that collects data at a federal level. I have been speaking with Eric Lupher executive director of base impact. They created the software. Thank you so much. Thank you.

Despite the spotlight on police shootings nationwide, there is very little data about police use of deadly force in the U.S.

But that’s changing in California.

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The state legislature passed AB 71 in 2015, which calls for all of the state’s 800 law enforcement agencies to report use of force incidents.

As part of the implementation of AB 71, the state Department of Justice launched a database last month called URSUS to track use of force cases — making California the first in the nation to make police use of force incidents available to the public.

The database will establish a standard for reporting police use of force incidents and law enforcement officials will be required to provide information about race and whether there was a weapon or "perceived weapon."

The information will be available on January 1, 2017.

URSUS was built through a partnership between the California Department of Justice and the nonprofit tech firm Bayes Impact. A statement from California's Attorney General's office said the database is named after the bear on the California flag. Ursus means "bear" in Latin

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Eric Liu, executive director of Bayes Impact, discusses how the new technology can drive and inform the debate over policing in America Monday on Midday Edition.

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