Online police reports less transparent

police car

The Dallas Police Department in June upgraded a 40-year-old system that made police reports available to the public online. But the new system offers much less information than the previous one.

Online police reports previously offered limited narratives about crimes — anything from a sentence to a couple of paragraphs describing the crime. Now the online reports list the type of crime, location, time and date, but they offer no specific information, no narrative, on the crime.

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That’s because the new system requires two data entry fields — one public and one for internal police purposes. The old system had just one data field that would cut information off at a certain point in the narrative. When the new system first rolled out in June, patrol officers began copy and pasting the same narratives into both data entry fields. That resulted in confidential information inappropriately being made public.

So the police decided to keep all narratives out of public view until they can find a solution, says Maj. Robert Sherwin.

“A lot of people are going to say ‘we want it back the way it was,’ and that’s not going to happen,” Sherwin says.

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Neighborhood crime watch groups also have complained that not all crimes in their areas are being reported online. That’s because lawyers advised the police to omit any crime that involved a juvenile suspect. Since many crimes have an unknown suspect, DPD was omitting from public view any report with an unknown suspect on the idea that the suspect could be a juvenile. But the department since has reversed course on that, and reports with unknown suspects should be appearing online now, Sherwin says.

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  • Vince Rowe

    Seems like in an era where police are being more and more scrutinized that transparency should have been listed at the top of that RFP; No?