Our Process

What we're doing

Right now

We're cataloguing sources of criminal justice data in a database/library/index. As our archive grows over time, we can empower larger and more exciting analysis projects with the data we've collected.

In the future

The investigative process

The PDAP team and volunteers work together to answer questions and learn about the police through public criminal justice records. Our core functions are highlighted—our community is there to support with the rest.
  1. 1.
    Ask a question or make a hypothesis about the police. For example, "how do police misconduct settlements affect local budgets?" If you'd like to see what other people think or get help, you can post in #data-exchange in Discord.
  2. 2.
    Locate public records to help you answer this question. You may find what you need in our working Data Sources database; you may need to add them, if they're missing.
  3. 3.
    Access the records however you can. We're making archives of internet sources, and helping people share their successful FOIA requests.
  4. 4.
    Use scrapers, if needed, to parse or process records into usable data. Read more about how PDAP approaches scraping here.
  5. 5.
    Analyze and report the results. Share your process in Discord, so we can learn and improve our processes together!

Defining Public Records Accessibility

Where are we focused first?

We're working region by region, not type by type.

Because most data is consumed by local users—and because context is everything—we're focusing on helping people access as much information about their local municipality, county, or state as possible.

What are public records?

Some information is required by law to be public. Governments keep several types of public records, and make them available to different degrees—sometimes on a web page, sometimes behind a "records request" process like the Freedom of Information or Right to Know requests. Our goal is to track these Data Sources in one place, and work to make each of them as accessible as possible.

Degrees of access for public records

  1. 1.
    The source should exist, but we have no known path to access it.
  2. 2.
    Someone has previously made an extraction or records request for this source, and we have their contact information.
  3. 3.
    We have custody of an archive or can point to direct access.

Phases of accessibility in each state

  1. 1.
    Collect information about agencies and public data laws for each state in the U.S.
  2. 2.
    Collect required data about every criminal justice agency in the state, so people can see which agencies are relevant for any location.
    • Location
    • Jurisdiction
    • Parent / child relationships between agencies
  3. 3.
    Collect metadata about available Data Sources for each agency, so people can find information about any agency.
    • Type of records available
    • How to access the data
  4. 4.
    Publish tools to normalize and combine local data from different Agencies and States.