Big Mountain Data to Participate in Police Data Initiative Data Dive

Last spring, the White House announced the Police Data Initiative (PDI).   When we saw the announcement, it immediately piqued our interest.  Big Mountain Data’s mission is predicated on openness and transparency with regard to the data that can be collected, analyzed, and reported on intimate partner violence.  Via our partner Socrata and our contacts at the Sunlight Foundation, we reached out to see if we could begin to form a community of interest for knowledge-sharing and best practices specific to intimate partner violence data within the PDI.


We were thrilled to hear last summer that Orlando joined as the first city in the state of Florida to join the PDI.  Orlando has an excellent reputation for community engagement, a strong technology base, and a progressive law enforcement agency keen on innovation. Orlando Police Chief John Mina even attended a forum with President Obama in October to discuss criminal justice reform and specific ways data can be made available to the public.

As the Orlando Police Department (OPD) prepares to release data on the open portal, the agency has been exploring how featured areas of interest can be examined in a “data dive” forum that will bring together subject matter experts in the community, law enforcement, and city government.  Lucky for us, the first data dive effort to explore this new form of collaboration will be focused on domestic violence and sexual assault data.  The event is invitation-only, and we are pleased to be taking part in this exciting inaugural event.  Representatives from the state involved in advocacy work, as well as local advocates and data experts will be sharing their expertise along with local government officials and law enforcement.  The goal of this session is to bring people together to preview the datasets, provide feedback before final public release, and generally kickstart conversations on how increased transparency can help inform programs and introduce new approaches in the spirit of better protecting and serving the community.

The Director of Innovation for the City of Orlando, Matt Broffman is leading this effort on behalf of the city.  He’s done a terrific job of coordinating the stakeholders involved in the event, as well as setting expectations.  The event will take place on January 27th in the afternoon.  Big Mountain Data has provided input for suggested themes worthy of exploration by the participating teams and will be contributing the talents of Stacy Sechrist and John Weil from University of North Carolina – Greensboro who have worked together over three years analyzing a decade’s worth of domestic violence crime data.  We are very optimistic that this workshop will be an excellent catalyst to launch many conversations on the strategic use of police data to thwart violence against women in central Florida.  We are thrilled to be a part of this historic event.  If the workshop yields good results, this model could be replicated to other PDI sites.


Ruling Fails To Hold Offender Accountable For Facebook Threats

elonsisAdvocates for victims of domestic violence are disappointed the Supreme Court ruled to throw out the conviction of Anthony Elonis, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, who made chilling and vivid threats on Facebook to harm his estranged wife and others.

The Supreme Court on June 1 said it was not enough that an ordinary person would find Elonis’ rap-style social media posts threatening. “The narrow opinion said it was not necessary to address whether the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech protected Elonis’ Facebook statements, the Washington Post wrote. “The opinion also declined to take a position on whether it would be enough for a conviction to show that a defendant had been reckless in making inflammatory statements.”

The justices heard the case of Elonis vs. United States on December 1, 2014. Elonis is challenging a 44-month prison sentence he served for Facebook that appeared to threaten his wife with violence. Even after a restraining order, Elonis continued to post. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 44 months in prison.

He claimed the posts were meant as jokes and are protected under the First Amendment. Further, he contends that under the federal threat statute, the jury must find that he intended his Facebook posts to be threatening. (The ruling did not address the First Amendment question.)

His wife clearly considered his posts threatening. “I felt like I was being stalked,” she testified. “I felt extremely afraid for mine and my children’s and my family’s lives.”

The National Network to End Domestic Violence criticized the ruling, saying, “We believe a reasonable person standard is appropriate for conviction of threatening under the statute at issue.”

The organization noted that Justice Samuel Alito wrote that “[t]hreats of violence and intimidation are among the most favored weapons of domestic abusers, and the rise of social media has only made those tactics more commonplace.”

But advocates for victims of domestic violence worry the ruling will make it difficult for victims to find protection from online threats.

“The Internet is the crime scene of the 21st century,” Mai Fernandez, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, told the Washington Post. “The laws governing social media require swift interpretation to keep pace with the ever-advancing criminal activity in this space.”