Data on decades of Boy Scout expulsions released by Nathan Yau.
Nathan points to an interactive map, searchable list and downloadable data from the Los Angeles Times of data from the Boy Scouts of America on people expelled from the Boy Scouts for suspicions of sexual abuse.
The LA Times has done a great job with this data set (and the story) but it also illustrates a limitation in current data practices.
All of these cases occurred in jurisdictions with laws against sexual abuse of children.
If a local sheriff or district attorney reads about this database, how do they tie it into their databases?
Not at simple as saying “topic map,” if that’s what you were anticipating.
Among the issues that would need addressing:
- Confidentiality – Law enforcement and courts have their own rules about sharing data.
- Incompatible System Semantics – The typical problem that is encountered in business enterprises, writ large. Every jurisdiction is likely to have its own rules, semantics and files.
- Incompatible Data Semantics – Assuming systems talk to each other, the content and its semantics will vary from one jurisdiction to another.
- Subjects Evading Identification – The subjects (sorry!) in question are trying to avoid identification.
You could get funding for a conference of police administrators to discuss how to organize additional meetings to discuss potential avenues for data sharing and get the DHS to fund a large screen digital TV (not for the meeting, just to have one). Consultants could wax and whine about possible solutions if someday you decided on one.
I have a different suggestion: Grab your records guru and meet up with an overlapping or neighboring jurisdiction’s data guru and one of their guys. For lunch.
Bring note pads and sample records. Talk about how you share information between officers (that you and your counter-part). Let the data gurus talk about how they can share data.
Practical questions of how to share data and what does your data mean now? Make no global decisions, no award medals for attending, etc.
Do that once or twice a month for six months. Write down what worked, what didn’t work (just as important). Each of you picks an additional partner. Share what you have learned.
The documenting and practice at information sharing will be the foundation for more formal information sharing systems. Systems based on documented sharing practices, not how administrators imagine sharing works.
Think of it as “oil drop semantics.”
Start small and increase only as more drops are added.
The goal isn’t a uniform semantic across law enforcement but understanding what is being said. That understanding can be mapped into a topic map or other information sharing strategy. But understanding comes first, mapping second.