By Andrew T. LeFevre
In 2021, when I previously wrote about Arizona’s problem of being criminal justice data-rich, but information poor, the state had just passed a law that designated the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC) as the central collection agency for the state and required ACJC to conduct a comprehensive survey of data from criminal justice agencies from across the state. It was a critical first step in better understanding what criminal justice data should be collected and reported so that data can turn into information.
ACJC completed that comprehensive survey and provided reports and recommendations to the legislature on what data elements should be required to be reported to the state and the costs associated with implementing a statewide reporting system. This proposal, Senate Bill 1588, is currently moving through the legislative process; and, if adopted, will place Arizona in the position of a national leader in the collection and reporting of criminal justice data.
More importantly for our state, the State County Municipal Online Data System will bring criminal justice data from across many sectors and siloed departments into one platform allowing for the integration and fusion of data into information.
And this fusion of data into information will allow Arizona to reach for what former Hewlett Packard Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina said is the ultimate goal…to turn data into information and information into insight.
As outlined in Senate Bill 1588, the State County Municipal Online Data System will only require criminal justice agencies to report those data elements that are currently collected and readily reportable in an electronic format out of their records management systems. Funding is provided in the bill to cover any costs associated with the programming of local records management systems including automating the push of data to ACJC. The bill also creates safeguards against publishing any personally identifying or locating information being shared to ensure that privacy protections for victims, juveniles, and law enforcement officers are guaranteed.
The bill also includes a triggering mechanism for when the state system becomes operational, but more importantly, for when each criminal justice agency is deemed ready to report into the system. ACJC understands that many departments are already working under strained budgets and existing project timelines. ACJC will ensure that all agencies are provided with the time and support to be able to report in a manner that has the least amount of impact on their agency and their officers.
The Commission strongly believes that Senate Bill 1588 gives Arizona the best chance at creating a process that will lead to the long-term success of the collection of criminal justice data in a way that allows policymakers to turn data into information – and more importantly to use that information to gain insight into the creation of better criminal justice policy for our state and citizens.
Andrew T. LeFevre is the Executive Director of the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC)