Jan 3, 2018

Berkeley I School Students Map Oakland’s Police Data

Peter Rowland (MIMS ’18) and Steve Trush (MIMS ’18) are current Master of Information Management and Systems students, and 2017 fellows with the Center for Technology, Society & Policy. The project referenced in this story, "Increasing Transparency into the Capabilities of Surveillance and Policing Technologies: A Resource for Cities and Citizens" is a collaboration between Rowland, Trush, and co-CTSP fellows Shazeda Ahmed, an I School Ph.D. student, and Emily Witt (MIMS ’17). The story also references the work of Michelle Carney (MIMS ’18). 

From East Bay Express

Cal Students Map Oakland’s Police Data

By Darwin BondGraham

California continues to veer away from much of the nation by adopting immigrant-friendly policies. Just last year, the state legislature and Gov. Brown approved a new law that bars any local or state law enforcement officer from investigating a person’s immigration status or helping federal agents enforce immigration laws.

But are local cops in sanctuary cities like Oakland inadvertently helping federal immigration agents identify and deport local residents? A team of UC Berkeley [School of Information] students is taking a close look at what happens to the large amount of detailed information collected by Oakland’s cops to see if ICE agents are accessing it through a backdoor.

"There’s a lot of trust being placed in the operators of this equipment or these databases," said Steve Trush, a Berkeley grad student working on the project. Trush has a computer science degree from the University of Arizona, and he served 13 years in the Army, working in military intelligence. Later, he contracted with national security agencies before going back to school...

Peter Rowland, another UC Berkeley graduate student working on the project, said their research originated last year when the Oakland Privacy Commission — which advises the city council on technology and civil rights — floated the idea of cataloging databases and surveillance tools used by the Oakland Police Department. Among other things, the privacy commission wanted to figure out who can access the trove of information OPD is gathering. In particular, the commission is interested in whether federal agencies like ICE are benefitting from OPD’s data collection efforts. OPD officials ultimately disclosed 23 separate databases that the department uses to store and analyze information.

But comprehensively examining all 23 systems would be impossible in a short span of time, said Trush. So, the team chose to focus on one important system in particular and use it as a trial run to see how much they could learn.

The Consolidated Records Information Management System, or CRIMS, is an online portal that contains mountains of data on everyone who comes in contact with Alameda County’s law enforcement agencies. CRIMS — which was built by the county’s Information Technology Department and is managed by the sheriff’s office — pipes in data from the in-house records management systems of individual police departments like OPD. It’s constantly updated and serves as a clearinghouse for every police officer and sheriff’s deputy in the county. Cops can access it from the computers in their squad cars or offices...

While Trush and Rowland were busy mapping CRIMS, their colleague Michelle Carney, another Berkeley Information School grad student, worked on a related project to help Oakland’s privacy commission understand how city residents think about surveillance and civil liberties. The goal is to draw more people into policy debates about the appropriate use of technology by police and other city departments.

Read the full article...

Peter Rowland (left) and Steve Trush spent months examining CRIMS. - Photo by Darryl Barnes for East Bay Express
Peter Rowland (left) and Steve Trush spent months examining CRIMS. - Photo by Darryl Barnes for East Bay Express

Last updated:

April 20, 2018