Details of plan for police open-data portal pushed to new year

Dec 19, 2016

How the Toronto Police Board will address the issue of “open data” will be made clear in the mayor’s transformation task force report, scheduled to be released at the January 2017 board meeting.

The Toronto Police Services Board is planning for their own portal, which will be integrated with the City’s. “We don’t envision this as something that is night and day from what the City is doing in terms of open data.” Ian Williams, manager of Business Intelligence & Analytics, told the board. Williams said the City is currently reviewing options to change their portal platforms and Toronto police are working closely as part of that planning.

But the board members had questions about the necessity of a separate portal. City Councillor Chin Lee asked for the rationale for customizing the data, saying every change will mean an increase in overhead. Williams said that level of customization is necessary given privacy concerns and depersonalization, such as a victim’s location. “You’re talking about security, security is just another layer you place on the data,” Lee said. Williams said they haven’t gone down that path but will consult with other cities such as Edmonton, Vancouver and Montreal, that have.

The report comes following requests by Councillor Paul Ainslie, Chair of Toronto City Council’s Government Management Committee. Ainslie first brought the issue before the police board in April of 2016, requesting daily incident reports be made public. Ainsley also brought another police data issue involving hate-bias to city council in July; the issue being that the current report is not in a user-friendly format.

Richard Pietro, an open data advocate, spoke at the board meeting. He explained that he used data from the City’s Wellbeing map website, to create public tables on Google Drive comparing the number of traffic collisions and types of crimes by neighbourhood, as well as an Operating Budget Summary for the Toronto Police Service. His reason? He creates civic engagement as art. “It’s to rebrand civic engagement… art is creation, it’s [about] putting yourself into something that brings value.This is something you do in your spare time… I do this because I believe in it.”

Richard Pietro at TPSB Dec 19
1:51pm Dec 19, 2016. Open data advocate Richard Pietro, organizer of the Toronto Open Data book club, speaking to the Toronto Police Service Board about a separate police Open Data portal.