Examining data to build engagement strategies

Accountable Policing

Jalisco, Mexico

The Action

The Human Rights Division of the Bogotá Police is working to develop an ongoing relationship of trust between residents and the police. Through data and participatory working groups, the Bogotá Police and civil society organizations identified patterns of discrimination in law enforcement and designed new engagement strategies to rebuild trust. This included an expedited process for communicating with and involving communities affected by specific incidents.

City of Bogotá, Accountable Policing

Democracy Challenge

Legitimacy and trust are important for all city functions, but they are particularly essential (and fragile) in the context of public safety and the government’s use of force. If residents feel alienated and oppressed because of misconduct by individual police officers and/or systematic patterns of discrimination, opportunities for collaboration to prevent, detect, and address crime and disorder become limited.

How Does It Work & How Did They Do It?

Efforts to reform and rehabilitate Bogota’s police force have spanned several mayors and have included greater institutional oversight, sharing crime statistics with the public, revision of the police code of conduct, and community policing that reaches out specifically to estranged communities. 

City of Bogotá, Accountable Policing

Building on those initiatives, the Human Rights Division set up a number of participatory working groups to identify trust gaps and create strategies for rebuilding police legitimacy. The effort was endorsed by police leadership and supported by NGOs. It began with an analysis of lawsuits and other complaints filed against the police, to identify patterns of discrimination, particularly around the use of force. These findings fed into engagement efforts at both the local and national level: 

  • Police created an expedited process for bringing stakeholders together to address sensitive incidents in an integrated, rapid way; 
  • Local police officers were designated as “citizen participation managers” and tasked with engaging directly with residents to re-establish a perception of police officers as members of the community; 
  • There have been discussions on how to better engage Afro-descendent, indigenous, and deaf communities, including efforts to show the police force’s own diversity and train officers in sign language; and 
  • Nationally, an “urgent case” working group brought together the Ministry of Culture, Attorney General, Ombudsman and the National Police to examine and improve how the National Police and local communities relate to one another. 

Who Else Is Trying This?

  • Durham, North Carolina, US: North Carolina police must record 45 data points about every traffic stop, including date and time; officer ID number; age, race, and gender of the motorist; whether there was a search of the vehicle; whether that search was based on consent or probable cause; whether any contraband was found; how much contraband was found; and use of force. In 2015, this information was made available in a public database, updated monthly at OpenDataPolicingNC (although Maryland and Illinois also use this service). Users can access information on more than 20 million police stops to examine an officer’s history of traffic stops or analyze broader patterns. Read more 
  • San Jose, California, US: The San Jose Police Department has commissioned independent studies and the creation of an online data dashboard to allow scrutiny of its officers’ arrest patterns, including the use of force. Read more 
  • Dayton, Ohio, US: The Dayton Community Police Council has committed to developing a response protocol whenever police use force. According to the council’s 2019–2022 action plan, the protocol would include a defined threshold (such as, three or more police cars are called to a use-of-force incident and police weapons are drawn); procedures for notifying council members and preparing a public statement; and reviewing each incident, perhaps by surveying nearby residents within seven days. The plan also calls for using data to amend each component. Read more 

City of Bogotá, Accountable Policing


This action was originally developed for Big Bold Cities, an initiative of Living Cities and the National Democratic Institute (NDI); republished here with the permission of Living Cities.