National Police Foundation Publishes Best Practices Guide for Police Open Data | National Police Foundation

National Police Foundation Publishes Best Practices Guide for Police Open Data

As more police departments are adopting open data practices within their jurisdictions, the National Police Foundation releases a five-part series to guide agencies through the process.  

WASHINGTON — The National Police Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan, policing research organization, is pleased to announce the publication of its five-part best practices guide series Open Data and Policing. Drawing from promising practices used by law enforcement agencies that take part in the Police Data Initiative, the guide series aims to guide executives and members of local law enforcement agencies as they develop and release open data.


The Police Data Initiative, managed by the National Police Foundation through funding from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), promotes the use of open data to encourage joint problem-solving, innovation, enhanced understanding, and accountability between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

To date, more than 140 local law enforcement agencies have joined the Police Data Initiative, and as of November 2018, over 380 open data sets have been released with many more in development. These open data sets contain raw, incident-level data that can be accessed online in a digital machine-readable format. These data sets can be accessed, downloaded, and analyzed by community members, researchers, and others at no cost to the user.


According to the National Police Foundation’s Law Enforcement Executive’s Guide to Open Data, “with increased access to accurate information, police officers and community members alike are empowered to develop a fact-based perspective on community-police relations by understanding the actual public safety and crime problems within their jurisdictions and how the police are responding to those problems.”

Police departments can use open data sets to help them to better engage with their communities and identify and analyze local challenges, which can better inform responses to topics such as crime hot spots and specialized challenges such as hate crimes. Publishing data sets that address frequently-requested statistics can additionally help to streamline common media inquiries.

“The leaders involved in this community of practice have taken extraordinary steps to demonstrate transparency and to engage those they serve in a partnership for public safety,” said Chief (Ret.) Jim Bueermann, President of the National Police Foundation. “Open data is more accessible, timely, and provides a more accurate picture and allows for informed dialogue to take place between law enforcement and community members.”


With funding from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, the National Police Foundation developed a five-part series Best Practices Guide, covering topics throughout the process of developing and releasing open data for the first time through real-word examples. Topics include creating a data plan and choosing types of data sets to release, creating new open data sets, sharing open data sets with the community, regularly updating data, and using open data as an opportunity for further community engagement.

5-part series:

  1. Developing Open Data
  2. Practices for Opening Data
  3. Sharing Open Data
  4. Updating Open Data
  5. Building Community Partnerships

“Open data can improve transparency and create an informed community, but it is important to take the time to make sure the data you share is accurate and ethical,” said Commander Mike Krantz of the Portland Police Bureau.

Portland PB is one of ten unique agency case studies within the Open Data and Policing series that provide first-hand accounts of open data development from interviews with “data champions” in each public safety agency. Case studies include comprehensive narratives from Austin (TX), Chapel Hill (NC), Ferndale (MI), Lincoln (NE), Long Branch (NJ), Norman (OK), Northampton (MA), Rochester (NY), South Bend (IN), as well as many other references to participating agencies in the Police Data Initiative community.


Agencies interested in viewing the guide or joining the Police Data Initiative can visit or contact Garrett Johnson, Research Assistant at the National Police Foundation, at For a look at how police departments, as well as community members and cities, are using open data, please see this feature article on

The National Police Foundation is a U.S.-based, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing policing through innovation and science. For nearly 50 years, the National Police Foundation has conducted research on all aspects of policing, provided training and technical assistance in all aspects of policing, and has led the way in promoting and sharing evidence-based practices and innovation among law enforcement in the U.S. and internationally. For more information on the National Police Foundation, please visit or contact James Burch, Executive Vice President, at

This project was supported by cooperative agreement number 2016CRWXK001, awarded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues. The Internet references cited in this publication were valid as of the date of this publication. Given that URLs and websites are in constant flux, neither the author(s) nor the COPS Office can vouch for their current validity.

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