GitHub Universe liveblog: Clarence Wardell, U.S. Digital Service

Beyang Liu

Innovation fellow of the U.S. Digital Service, a.k.a. the “president’s startup.”

His time as innovation fellow started in 2014, right around the time the conversation around law enforcement and Ferguson was coming to a tipping point. Big demand for better data around policing, especially with officer shootings.


They compiled 49 recommendations based on data for the White House. We looked around the country and saw police departments actively responding to citizen concerns, not waiting around for mandates or legislation — Dallas, Seattle, Louisville. They invited folks to the White House to have a discussion and workshops. They started a conversation to share more data and ended the meeting with a commitment board: 14 PDs committed to releasing policing data in formats that were machine-readable. They didn't ask for a specific product right away, but wanted folks to get the process started and off the ground. This became the Police Data Initiative in May 2015.

As of this past summer, they’ve reached 56 police departments around the country, both big and small. 80 jurisdictions, 150+ data sets covering 40 million individuals.

Police Data Initiatives commitments:

  • leadership buy-in
  • release at lease 3 datasets in open format (disaggregated, machine readable)
  • designed “quarterback” who partakes in bi-weekly community of practice phone calls — stand-ups to share data with other PDs
  • engage citizens through data


Police Data Initiatives key activities:

  • recruit new jurisdictions
  • manage growing community of practice
  • successful execution for datasets and community events

Early successes:

  • Public Safety Open Data Portal
  • New Orleans Police Department Operation Spark: engaging student hackers to hack on community policing data
  • Code for America: Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Project Comport: show data on police use of force

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We’re starting to see a new paradigm. Police departments across the country are coming around to the idea of sharing data as the default. It’s the People’s Data, not just the police’s data.

How to get involved?

About the author

Beyang Liu is the CTO and co-founder of Sourcegraph. Beyang studied Computer Science at Stanford, where he published research in probabilistic graphical models and computer vision at the Stanford AI Lab. You can chat with Beyang on Twitter @beyang or our community Discord.

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