AUSTIN, Texas - Austin City Council is expected to vote on a resolution regarding the expansion of police data. The resolution directs the city manager to come up with a plan for the APD Open Policing Data Release.
The item, sponsored by District 4 Council Member Jose "Chito" Vela, and co-sponsored by four other council members, says a data portal will help with public access and will let the police department measure the effectiveness of policies.
"It's very important that our public safety decisions are data-driven decisions. I don't want them to be based on anecdotes or fears or a very high-profile incident. I want them to be focused on data," Vela said.
He says the inspiration was other cities. For example, San Antonio has a data portal.
"It was past time that we had the kind of data portal that other places have implemented years ago," he said.
Vela also says it will ease the burden with the backlog of public information requests.
"I think it'll be a huge help with the workload. The Austin Police Department has thousands, tens of thousands of pending data requests," he said.
The first data release would include the last 36 months of requested information with new data being added monthly. It would protect the privacy of people who interact with police.
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The data will include everything from calls for service, number of personnel, hours worked, overtime, staff leaving, cadets in training, plus outcome of police actions like arrests, searches, response times, and use of force.
Vela says he thinks this is something council members, the police department, and the public are all on board with.
"This is one of the rare public safety resolutions that I think could have unanimous support," he said. "We have been through a lot with, you know, the police union and the police department. It's been a very tumultuous few years. We're getting back together. We're getting on the same page."
The resolution says the city manager will come back to council by a work session in December to present a detailed timeline and budget for the first monthly release by March 2024.
Austin police say, "we look forward to the discussion and direction that will be provided."