Open Police Data Across American Cities

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What Works Cities | Results for America




District of Columbia

Organization Overview:

What Works Cities (WWC), a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative, helps local governments across the country improve residents’ lives by using data and evidence effectively to tackle pressing challenges. Since our launch in 2015, we have helped nearly 200 cities make progress in crucial areas, from health and public safety to homelessness and blight.

One specific program in What Works Cities is What Works Cities Certification, which sets the national standard of excellence for data-driven, well-managed local government. The program evaluates how well cities are managed by measuring the extent to which city staff and leadership incorporate data and evidence into decision-making. You can learn more about the program, Certification criteria, and Certified cities on our medium page:

Project Name:

Open Police Data Across American Cities
Project Type: 
Policy Analysis; Data Collection & Analysis

Project Overview:

While there are many cities who have open data portals and are committed to sharing data with their residents, this commitment sometimes fails to extend to the police department. According to this piece ( by our colleague Clarence Wardell III, there are five critical police datasets that should be published as a first step toward police transparency.

This project will require collecting data from over 100 US cities who have demonstrated on their What Works Cities Assessment the existence of an open data portal to find whether these cities are publishing the five critical police datasets on their open data portal. After the data collection portion of the project, we would like the student to run analysis on the data to potentially identify correlations between variables on our internally-held data like a city’s What Works Cities Certification score, the existence of an open data policy, and the strength of a city’s stakeholder engagement practices. Additionally, analysis on externally-held data should be run to identify relationships between open police data and things like police force diversity and community satisfaction, to name a few examples. Interviews may also be done with city staff to better understand what led to the publication, or lack thereof, of open police data in their city. Depending on the initial findings during data collection, interviews, and early analysis, there is flexibility here for the project scope to adapt and grow to fit the interests and strengths of the student.

1. A comprehensive dataset on the state of police open data transparency for a provided list of cities with an existing open data portal
2. A report detailing research methods and findings
3. Presentation to What Works Cities Staff on findings

Project Timeline: It is expected that the student will spend roughly the first 6-8 weeks on data collection from open data portals, then the remaining time on qualitative interviews, analysis and writing.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326