More than 25 people, including a few new faces and several members of BeLoved’s Homeless Voice, joined us on Saturday for Open Data Day 2019. This year’s event focused on ways to use the policing open data that began to be released last year. 

Jesse Michel and Patrick Conant began with a review of how we got here, from our Petition for Police Accountability Through Data Transparency to the formation of a working group that helps the City hash out the details of how to provide the data requested by the petition. Then they delved into more details about what data sets are available, and equally important, what’s not available. For instance, some of the most frequently requested information is about specific officers with an anecdotal history of problems, but NC law prevents the release of data that could confirm or disprove those anecdotes. The need to protect the personal privacy of crime victims, suspects and officers also creates an ongoing challenge in disentangling the personal information from open data that can be safely released.
Next, Tyler Bradley from Analytics in Asheville introduced us to the American Community Survey, how it differs from census data, and how they can both be used for comparison with policing data. Emily Wright-Moore closed out the formal presentations with a discussion of user-centered design, the process of working with your intended audience to make sure data is presented in ways that actually meet their needs and that help them achieve their end goals.

Afterwards, Patrick and our event host Alyx Perry led the group in a wide-ranging conversation of what can be done with the data. Patrick showed us how to pull up sample data sets that could be used to analyze trends in traffic stop disparities or incident calls on specific blocks. Other topics included the difference between public records and open data, the need for a truly anonymous and protected way to file complaints against officers, the goal of on-the-ground policy change as a result of data, and possible ways to help people who aren’t us know where to turn when they want data. 

We’d hoped to break into groups to work on specific topics, but the group discussion was engaged enough it didn’t leave time for that. So what next? Come to our Community Night or a projects night to find out!

Many thanks to all our presenters, to Jay Hill for filming, to the City of Asheville’s IT department for sponsoring our snacks and space rental, and especially to volunteer Alyx Perry for organizing and hosting the event. If you missed it, you can still watch the presentations on our YouTube channel.
“I can’t wait to see what happens.
I have hope for Asheville because of this.”

G-Rock, Homeless Voice, Open Data Day 2019