COPA Adds More Transparency with Police Complaint Data

by Tom Schenk Jr. (Guest Blogger)

Chief Data Officer for the City of Chicago

The newly-formed Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) published detailed complaint data on the City of Chicago Data Portal. The new datasets include the nature of the complaint, the time of the complaint, status and any findings as a result of the complaint, whether it was a police-involved shooting, and basic demographic information on the reported victims and officers.

Chicago is the largest city to publish detailed complaint data. Prior to today, this information was published in documents which made it difficult to analyze and distribute the data. Now it is on the data portal, you can access and download the data in your web browser, download it to your computer, or access it through the data portal API.

The data portal contains three data sets on complaints. Each is organized slightly different to facilitate different types of analysis:

  • Summary of Cases – each row of the data provides a complete listing of the reported victims, officers, and demographics. Each reported victim and officer. This dataset is the best way to view the generate analysis of the total number of cases.
  • COPA Cases – By Complainants or Subjects – each row shows a reported complainant or subject, their demographics and that of the officer(s) involved. Some complaints have more than one reported victim and the same case will be represented by the same LOG_NO.
  • COPA Cases – By Involved Officers – each row shows an officer involved in a complaint. Some complaints have more than one officer involved and the same case will be represented by the same LOG_NO.

Individual privacy is crucial when publishing this type of data. Demographics of reported victims and officers–such as age, race and ethnicity, and gender–are reported in this data set. But in order to maintain confidentiality, the age of individuals are summarized in ten year ranges. Likewise, the data contains the tenure–the years on the force–is also denoted in ten-year increments.

The data contains cases handled by COPA (and its predecessor agency, IPRA) and CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA). Cases are updated on a regular basis. At the time of reporting, some cases may have not been resolved and still under investigation. BIA cases have information on the date and time of the complaint, but information on the reported victim and officer are withheld.