The site has two parts. Dashboard is a data visualization tool, full of nifty charts and graphs built around pre-selected data sets. The Open Data Portal allows access to downloadable raw data dating back 30 years.
The attorney general’s press release described the open data initiative as “unprecedented” and Jim Bueermann, who heads the nonprofit Police Foundation, concurred. He told the Associated Press California was the first state to make such data easily available to the public.
But the datasets are limited and the site only displays a small portion of the state’s information. The website asks visitors to suggest new data sets.
Arrest Rates is divided into Overview, Adult, Juvenile and Bookings.
Adult Arrests has five charts on felony arrests across time (1980-2013) and by race/ethnicity and sex. Juvenile Arrests adds a couple of charts but covers the same territory. Bookings has seven charts of data between 2010 and 2014, broken out by age, sex and race/ethnicity. Overview has nine charts with different views of the subjects in the other three categories.
The Death in Custody visualizations are top notch, inspiring U.S. Representative Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), who appeared at a news conference with Harris and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, to highlight what she considered an unexpected piece of data. Sixty-one percent of the 7,000 prisoners who died in custody between 2005 and 2014 passed away from natural causes; they weren’t beaten to death by police.
But the Los Angeles Times questioned the validity of the underlying data, citing an Orange County Register report last year that 20% of fatal shootings by Southern California law enforcement weren’t counted. Harris told the paper she vouched for the data’s accuracy.