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Austin could be getting a public dashboard on police data next year

An Austin police officer next to some police cruisers
Gabriel C. Pérez

The Austin City Council OK'd a plan Thursday to make more police data available to the public. The measure, which would require the Austin Police Department to post data monthly on an online dashboard, passed by a vote of 7-1.

Police already release data to the public through public information requests and a monthly crime statistics update from the chief. The resolution from Council Member Chito Vela would provide more nuanced data that would include the number of calls for service, more detailed information on incidents, and information on overtime use and officer pay.

Vela said information is already in the APD chief’s monthly reports, but cities like San Antonio and Seattle provide more regular — and detailed — updates that are hosted on public databases.

"This is not a groundbreaking item. Other cities ... have excellent, publicly available police data dashboards. What we're doing today is we're bringing national best-practices to Austin," he said. "And this is one of the rare public safety items everyone supports."

Interim APD Chief Robin Henderson and staff said the effort would likely require more of an administrative lift on the department's part. For example, APD would need to find a way to collect sensitive data and redact it before putting it in the dashboard. That could include confidential information on overtime pay and information related to sexual assault or mental health.

On top of that, the department would need to find a single place to collate all that data. But, Henderson said, APD understands the need for a public dashboard.

"And we very much want to fulfill that," she said.

The public is entitled to access city records, but an audit out last month found APD has a hulking backlog of 20,000 requests for information. The audit also found it takes the department more than a year to fill those requests.

Given the backlog, Council Member Mackenzie Kelly — the lone dissenting vote — said she wouldn't support the resolution.

"I just strongly feel that adding additional responsibilities to staff currently at APD is going to put a lot more strain on them," she said. "But I do think that this data is important."

Vela’s measure calls on city staff to get the reporting system up and running by March.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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