New site is lifting the lid on California police records

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policeshootingprotestGNearly 7,000 people have died in police custody in California over the last quarter century. And black youths are booked into jail at a 25 percent higher rate than whites.

That’s a sampling of the information now available to the public on the Open Justice Initiative, a new website created by the state Department of Justice.

It comes as part of an effort to ease tensions between police and the public at a time when a number of high-profile deaths of young black man have ignited a debate over racial bias in law enforcement.

California is believed to be the first state to make such a comprehensive database of arrest and death data available to the public. The new, searchable site includes three sets of data: arrests and bookings, deaths in police custody and law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.KAMALAHARRIS

Attorney General Kamala Harris calls it a “treasure trove” of data – and she says it paints a clearer picture of racial disparities in California policing. At a news conference to announce the launch of the site, Harris cited the deaths of young black men in Los Angeles, Ferguson, Missouri, Texas and elsewhere. She says that part of the conversation surrounding those deaths needs to be cold, hard facts.

“Twenty-five percent of the deaths in custody are African American, despite the fact that African Americans are six percent of California’s population.” Harris said during a news conference to announce the launch.

Harris says she’s confident about the reliability of the data, which is reported by local police agencies. But she says even more information should be available to the public. She supports bills being debated in the state Legislature that would require police agencies to report cases in which suspects are injured by officers in shootings or other uses of force.