So what is going on here? Well, it seemed from my browsing that many police officers were systematically ignoring the 2009 rule change, all across the city.
But that is not where the story ends. As mentioned, we live in a city progressive enough to release parking ticket data. I’ve repeatedly said that putting data into the hand of citizens will make our city run better and more equitably. So, I reached out to the NYPD via the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s Office (who is one of NYC’s earliest NYC’s Open Data champions) to tell them about the findings. They helped me get in touch with the appropriate people at the NYPD, and then I waited.
After a couple of weeks, I received the following quote from the NYPD:
“Mr. Wellington’s analysis identified errors the department made in issuing parking summonses. It appears to be a misunderstanding by officers on patrol of a recent, abstruse change in the parking rules. We appreciate Mr. Wellington bringing this anomaly to our attention.
The department’s internal analysis found that patrol officers who are unfamiliar with the change have observed vehicles parked in front of pedestrian ramps and issued a summons in error. When the rule changed in 2009 to allow for certain pedestrian ramps to be blocked by parked vehicles, the department focused training on traffic agents, who write the majority of summonses.
Yet, the majority of summonses written for this code violation were written by police officers. As a result, the department sent a training message to all officers clarifying the rule change and has communicated to commanders of precincts with the highest number of summonses, informing them of the issues within their command.
Thanks to this analysis and the availability of this open data, the department is also taking steps to digitally monitor these types of summonses to ensure that they are being issued correctly.”
I was speechless. THIS is what the future of government could look like one day. THIS is what Open Data is all about. THIS was coming from the NYPD, who is not generally celebrated for its transparency, and yet it’s the most open and honest response I have received from any New York City agency to date. Imagine a city where all agencies embrace this sort of analysis instead of deflect and hide from it. (For comparison purposes, see NYC Department of Health response to earlier work as example of how NOT to respond to Open Data.)
Democracies provide pathways for government to learn from their citizens. Open data makes those pathways so much more powerful. In this case, the NYPD acknowledged the mistake, is retraining its officers and is putting in monitoring to limit this type of erroneous ticketing from happening in the future. In doing so, they have shown that they are ready and willing to work with the people of the city. And what better gift can we get from Open Data than that.