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Police data collection to continue year-round

Original post made on Nov 9, 2007

Daryl Savage's effort to save the police department time -- by cutting the amount of demographic information, such as race, officers collect -- was strongly opposed by her Human Relations Commission colleagues Thursday evening.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 9, 2007, 3:21 PM

Comments (8)

Posted by Use-Computers-More, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2007 at 11:11 pm

> But for administrative staff, the compilation takes about 800 hours
> a year, according to the department's Director of Technical
> Services Sheryl Contois.

> It takes an officer about five minutes to enter the information,
> which also includes the location of the stop and its resolution.
> Until this year, the officers wrote the information down on cards;
? now they enter it into a computer, Contois said.

There are about 10,000 traffic stops a year, so at five minutes a stop the total time required to enter this data is about 833 hours. Presumably this is the same 800 hours that the Police Technical Services Director is talking about, but that is not clear.

What is sad is that with a computer in the patrol car, the time-of-day, GPS coordinates of the location where the stop was executed can be provided to a program that collects this sort of data. If the Officer were to enter M or F for sex, a 1-3 character code for stop type and stop resolution, and the Zipcode of the detained person's address, it would seem that it would take only a few seconds to get this information entered. As long as the cards are not needed as a check-and-balance against fraudulent/erroneous entries by the officer, then this process could be reduced to a few seconds.

The officer would upload the data file at some point, and GPS coordinates and city/state would be looked up from a Zipcode lookup table on a server computer. The now completed file would be forwarded to the person who compiles this information. Any/all reports should be compiled either from Excel spreadsheet processing, or some simple program written for purposes of report formatting.

Here we are in the middle of Silicon Valley and it seems that no one in the Police Department remotely understands what is possible with a computer.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2007 at 10:07 am

I was so happy, years ago, when race was outlawed as a government statistic. With electronics it would be possible to make an absolute racial ID during a traffic stop. So much for equal justice under the law.


Posted by observer, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 10, 2007 at 10:38 am

I believe the 800 hours of time is what the staff puts in to record all that data. It's an additional 800+ for the cops to plug in their data.


Posted by Use-More-Computers, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2007 at 10:49 am

> I believe the 800 hours of time is what the
> staff puts in to record all that data. It's an
> additional 800+ for the cops to plug in their data.

Well .. the cops are being paid to be on the street for a complete shift, so what else are they going to do with their time? Once they finish the "paper work" for a stop they just drive around looking for someone else to stop, or stay where they are waiting for someone to come along. They are being paid to be out on the street, so if they spend a few extra minutes per stop with paperwork, what's the problem.

As to the 800 hours to process this data once it's collected, that turns out to be 20 man-weeks or about 40% of an FTE! Something is very wrong with this process if the Technology Director can't figure out how to get this really innocuous data on and off a laptop computer and correlated into a meaning report in less than 800 hours.

However, if both 800 hour numbers are true, this report is costing us 1600 man hours, or almost all of an FTE. That means the tax payers are paying about $80K for this information.

And people wonder about "waste" at City Hall.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2007 at 11:07 am

When you see a police cruiser tucked away in the corner of some parking lot, they are entering all the data into their computers. I'd prefer to see them out cruising our streets.


Posted by Use-More-Computers, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2007 at 11:26 am

> When you see a police cruiser tucked away in the corner
> of some parking lot, they are entering all the data into
> their computers. I'd prefer to see them out cruising
> our streets.

Perhaps .. but the few extra minutes they spend entering data (it might be interesting to have the police department tell us how much time they do spend) isn't going to result in any demonstrable traffic safety.

Over time it's likely to see that the citation will be generated from information stored on the driver's license and electronics in the patrol car. Other than comments relevant to the stop, most of the information could be obtained from electronics in the cruiser (such as the highest speed of the car being stopped, direction of the travel, date, time, officer's name, badge number, etc. Access to a GPS/GIS system would provide the location of the stop, as well as the posted speed limit for that stretch of road.

It's a little odd that the data for this "local monitoring" can't be taken off the citation itself.


Posted by Marcus, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 10, 2007 at 1:42 pm

"However, if both 800 hour numbers are true, this report is costing us 1600 man hours, or almost all of an FTE. That means the tax payers are paying about $80K for this information."

Is this true? $80K of our taxes for information that nobody looks at? That's obscene!


Posted by ???, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2007 at 5:47 pm

This is pretty sad.

Not what is being written, but shouldn't this information be linked to our driving licence numbers. I mean, if they have the color of my hair and the color of my eyes, what is wrong with the color of my skin. After all, if someone needs to give a description of me for some reason, wouldn't the color of my hair (which could be changed) and the color of my eyes, who would notice (and that can be changed with contact lenses), plus my weight (which of course is harder to describe) be down on the list of things someone may use to describe me. The first description would be the color of my skin. It makes sense to put skin color on licences if the rest of my description is on the licence. Then, most of this information would not need to be entered into a computer as it would already be there in a hypothetical situation such as that of a traffic stop!!


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