The California Department of Justice has launched a new website that it says will make statewide law enforcement data more accessible to the public.
Attorney General Kamala Harris says high-profile shootings and deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers have sparked a national dialogue about trust between agencies and the communities they serve.
"Part of this conservation should take place looking at the data, what are the numbers, what are the facts that we know that we can actually quantify that can help influence public policy," she says.
The project, called OpenJustice, makes three data sets available for viewing and downloading -- custody-related deaths, arrest rates, and police officer deaths and assaults.
Harris says publishing the data is the first step toward getting a better picture of police practices across the state. A “Justice Dashboard” will spotlight trends across departments. Experts will help determine areas that need improvement.
"We know that no single data set can provide the complete picture in terms of what’s happening in the criminal justice system," says Harris.
She says the data has already pinpointed some of the racial disparities in the system. For example, although just 6 percent of Californians are African Americans, they account for 17 percent of all arrests in the state and a quarter of in-custody deaths.
One criticism of state and federal agencies collecting data has been that police departments are not mandated to turn in their numbers.
"So sometimes government doesn’t want to share, not that they’ve done something bad, it’s a moment of vulnerability," shes says.
Harris says for the most part, agencies across the state have been willing to work with her office to publish the data.
"It’s in the best interest of everyone to be transparent so we can move this discussion forward and improve our systems, what’s happening now is not working," she says.
Harris took a moment before announcing the OpenJustice project to talk about recent killings of two police officers in the line of duty -- one in Illinois and another in Texas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.