Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Spencer Crowl: Data Is Transparency

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Spencer Crowl: Data Is Transparency

Article excerpt

In early January, in a large room accessed through a side door on the third floor of City Hall, I had a meeting with then-interim city manager Doug Gerber, then-acting chief of police Kris Kramer and Topeka Police Department "legal advisor" Luther Ganieany -- ostensibly to discuss a citizen review board (CRB) that would provide independent citizen oversight of the Topeka Police Department. What they did was tell me how great their body camera program was, stressed the importance of good community relations and said all the words you'd expect from those with such titles. They said they agreed with me about the importance of transparency and communication.

As they extolled the department's virtues and assured me of their dedication to the citizens they're empowered to protect and serve, time and time again I said their actions would guide my belief in their words. They asked me to be a "liaison" to the community -- and I never heard from them again.

Around the end of the meeting, I told them that I'm particularly persistent about the issue of data. This is 2017: It's all about data and I told them I want that data.

Data is the information officers type into the computers in their patrol cars for every stop they make (from the reason for the stop to the demographic characteristics of those stopped). Data is what body camera footage becomes when it's uploaded to a server after an officer's shift. Data is the transcripts of all dispatch calls. Data is the emails and communications between divisions within TPD and between TPD and any agency investigating it. Data is what TPD discusses with the district attorney. Everything is data. Data is what TPD has and data is what it has not shared. I still want that data. The family of Dominique Tyrell White -- the young man recently shot by TPD -- needs that data.

That data doesn't belong to TPD: it belongs to the citizens of Topeka, from the purchase of the equipment to the payment of the electricity that keeps it all going. …

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