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Episode 3: How to Build A Positive Culture of Data and Analytics with Chief Jonathan Lewin

Dr. Antonio Oftelie  | 14 March 2019  |  4 minute read


Leveraging data and analytics can be a powerful way to make communities safer.

But police departments have to build a culture surrounding the use of data and analytics that involves the communities they are serving from day one.

Jonathan Lewin is the Chief of the Chicago Police Department Bureau of Technical Services, and his department has seen an improvement in Chicago’s public safety since implementing their Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs).  

The SDSCs are the result of a collaboration between the Chicago Police Department, the University of Chicago Crime Lab, and the Los Angeles Police Department. The goal of these centers is to integrate the newest public safety technology and processes to provide better and more precise information on criminals and develop targeted intervention strategies that are informed by data.  

Chief Lewin joined us on this special guest episode of the podcast to talk with Dr. Antonio Oftelie of Leadership for a Networked World about the use of data in engaging the community, embedding changes into the DNA of his police department, and protecting civil liberties.

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Engaging the Community

The prevalence of technology in many aspects of modern life has made technology more consumer friendly and accessible than ever. And technology is certainly an ever increasing aspect of police officer’s jobs as well.

Advanced body cameras, radios, custom smartphone applications, and more are advancing faster than policy can keep up with. Even AI and machine learning technology is leveraged in modern day police departments to predict criminal patterns and allocate resources accordingly.

But as police departments integrate more of this technology, they must be mindful to engage their community transparently every step of the way. For example, in 2003, the Chicago Police Department started involving their community in the deployment of surveillance cameras.

“When we engage the community and make them part of the process, and be transparent, we get a lot more buy in.”

Chicago has the most surveillance cameras of any city in the United States, and Chief Lewin believes they wouldn’t be accepted in other cities such as Seattle or San Francisco.  

But the reason that the people of Chicago find these cameras acceptable is that their police department asked for input and provided transparency from the very beginning. They took the right steps like making these cameras auditable and communicating exactly why each camera was placed where it was. The cameras are so popular now that there is often public outcry if there is ever talk of removing one.  

As the Chicago Police Department is bringing the public along with their initiatives, they are also involving their own officers in the decision making process. Just like with the community at large, they involve their officers at every step.   

“We involve the officers every step of the way.  The officers see their ideas built into tools.”

Embedding Changes Into The Police Department DNA

Chief Lewin has an ideal timetable for how long he would like to see new ideas come into the fold, implemented with the police officers of his department, and then eventually woven into the DNA of the department as a whole.  

But quickly moving projects and new initiatives are hard to track and test properly. Developing strong standards and standard operating procedures is difficult to do on short notice.  

Even with a tight timeline, the CPD is seeing the impacts of their SDSCs. Two districts that used to drive up violent crime stats are now helping to actually drive down those same stats. So far there have been preliminary impact assessments on the effectiveness of the SDSCs and the initial data is supporting their use.  

Protecting Civil Liberties

Privacy concerns and protecting civil liberties are all part of the technology planning process. Transparency and involving the community are of paramount importance here once again.

The Chicago Police Department learned a difficult lesson years ago when it did not share one of its crime detection models with the public and work to gain their trust with the initiative. This project became a “secret, scary” thing when the public was not involved, so the CPD has a very different approach now.

Cybersecurity is one of Chief Lewin’s biggest areas of concern in protecting the people of Chicago. He knows that no system is 100% foolproof and that most hacking issues are the result of human error (phishing attempts) so education on this topic and recognition of these attacks is very important.  

Technology is simply a tool.  It can be abused, but it can also be used to keep people safe. The CPD is using technology in a way that positively engages their community, encourages them to be involved in the decision making process, and creates a safer Chicago.

Chief Jonathan Lewin will be attending the upcoming Public Safety Summit at Harvard University. The participants at this year’s Summit will learn and share best practices on leading and sustaining transformation within rapidly changing environments. Public safety officials can learn more about the program and submit an application to attend here.

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