The Stanford Open Policing Project


On June 19th 2017, the Stanford Open Policing Project launched its website to provide access to the data collected about police stops around the country and to provide information about research that this data is driving. Stanford Libraries is pleased to be a partner in the long-term preservation of this data, which has been deposited into the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR). The persistent uniform resource locator (PURL) for the "standardized" stop data is archived as a national repository of state patrol stops in the SDR. The value of putting the files into an institutional repository such as the SDR insures the longevity of access to the data for continued and future use by researchers and journalists alike

The Project

Since 2014 Stanford researchers in the Stanford Computational Journalism Lab, led by professor Cheryl Phillips, have been working in collaboration with Sharad Goel, faculty in the Stanford School of Engineering, to gather and analyze U.S. police stop data from 31 states. This past weekend, at the Investigative Reporter and Editors (IRE) conference in Arizona, Phillips presented on this project. Stanford researchers have looked into racial disparities related to stop outcomes and search outcomes within the data collected and have started to publish their findings. This data set was compiled by making public information requests from local, county and state police departments. The team of researchers at Stanford who helped to garner, clean and analyze the data include Vignesh Ramachandran and the graduate students, Emma Pierson, Camelia Simoiu, Jan Overgoor, and Sam Corbett-Davies. Of the 31 states that provided the data requested, 20 states provided highly detailed data. Standardizing the data was an important step that allows researcher to start looking at state-by-state comparisons.

Here, Cheryl Phillips [far right] has just finished reporting on the launch of the data and website of the Stanford Open Policing Project at the IRE conference. Phillips was on the panel, "Watchdogging police misconduct", along with Ken Foskett [pictured on the far left] of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who moderated the session. Cheryl W. Thompson of the Washington Post, [pictured to the left of Phillips] spoke about her investigative work on the use of tasers in the criminal justice system. Thompson's articles published in 2015, entitled, "story.html?utmterm=.295c117846cd">Family asks for federal review of son’s death after tasering" also required her to investigate these matters by making public records requests and traveling to meet with key informants, such as police officials and family members of the victims, in multiple states to provide facts and context to her story.

Also pictured here is, Jonah Newman [second from the left], of the The Chicago Reporter who has compiled a database of lawsuits against police in Chicago which are costing taxpayers billions of dollars. His report "Settling for Misconduct" is based on the information in the interactive database created by Newman and the team at The Chicago Reporter. This database tracks how much the city spends to settle civil rights lawsuits against Chicago police officers. This kind of exposé on police misconduct ensures civic transparency, a critical aspect of a conscious and aware democratic society. The data collected by these journalists are important to archive in a repository that provides and is committed to long-term preservation and versioning of the files so that the record of this work remains available and viable for verification and historical research.

The Stanford Digital Repository is part of Stanford Libraries' ongoing effort to provide a long-term solution to archiving and preserving data at Stanford University that is useful for researchers such as, journalists, historians, public officials and for future generations. Access to public information and the long-term preservation of this information is an important role that the Stanford Libraries is committed to and takes seriously. Democratic transparency and evidence based analysis exist in these data. The Stanford Open Policing Project is already being heavily utilized by journalists and researchers across the country, as indicated by the publications listed on the website.

Find out more

Anyone wishing to re-use this data should go the Stanford Open Policing Project website in order to better understand the data and data use agreement. Stanford researchers, who have data that can be shared and that needs to be preserved, can contact the subject specialist in their discipline to initiate that process. Additional information on depositing all types of data is available at the SDR website.

This Data Story was written by Regina Lee Roberts.

Find out more about the data featured in this Data Story.