ST. JOHN — The Police Department has continued to expand the amount of data it releases online as part of a national initiative to increase transparency and accountability.
St. John police now post 14 data sets under the "police data initiative" tab on its website, stjohnin.com/PD. The department is one of just two in Indiana — and 54 nationwide — that release open data on hate and bias-motivated crime.
Besides bias crimes, the data sets released by St. John police include arrest demographics, daily calls for service, community engagement, crime mapping, monthly reports, officer-involved shootings, officer response to resistance, peddler/solicitor licenses, traffic stops, traffic accidents, traffic citations demographics, traffic warning demographics and year-end reports.
"It's data that has always been available to the public, but they were required to come in and ask for it," St. John Police Chief James Kveton said. "We just put it out there. It's no big deal."
The department joined the Police Data Initiative in 2016, shortly after it was established as part of former President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Kveton said he's not sure why he received an invitation to a White House meeting in 2016, but participating in the data initiative was a no-brainer.
The opportunity has allowed the Police Department to be a leader among other agencies nationwide, he said.
"A lot of this is the technical ability to get it online," he said. "As we've come up with a way to do it, we've added data sets."
It's cheaper to make the data publicly available than pay employees to search for records and make copies in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, he said.
"It's actually more economical," he said.
The Police Foundation on Thursday hailed the release of hate- and bias-crime data as an important step in promoting transparency and increasing awareness.
In Indiana, St. John and Bloomington release bias crime data.
"We applaud these law enforcement agencies for their commitment to public safety as they draw attention to the unacceptable problem of hate crimes," said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation. "Better hate crime data will position agencies and communities to take a stronger stance against these types of crimes."
Data show St. John has logged two bias crimes since 2005, including one in 2005 and another in 2009.
Kveton said he's confident St. John doesn't have a significant problem with bias crimes, but he was cautious about ruling out the possibility of future crimes.
"All people have bias of many different types based on the experience we've had throughout our lives," he said. "So can bias affect a person's criminal activity? Yes, it can."
Overall, the town has a low crime rate.