Originally posted on COPA’s blog.

The newly-formed Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) published detailed complaint data on the City of Chicago Data Portal. The new datasets include the nature of the complaint, the time of the complaint, status and any findings as a result of the complaint, whether it was a police-involved shooting, and basic demographic information on the reported victims and officers.

Chicago is the largest city to publish detailed complaint data. Prior to today, this information was published in documents which made it difficult to analyze and distribute the data. Now it is on the data portal, you can access and download the data in your web browser, download it to your computer, or access it through the data portal API.

The data portal contains three data sets on complaints. Each is organized slightly different to facilitate different types of analysis:

  • Summary of Cases – each row of the data provides a complete listing of the reported victims, officers, and demographics. Each reported victim and officer. This dataset is the best way to view the generate analysis of the total number of cases.
  • COPA Cases – By Complainants or Subjects – each row shows a reported complainant or subject, their demographics and that of the officer(s) involved. Some complaints have more than one reported victim and the same case will be represented by the same LOG_NO.
  • COPA Cases – By Involved Officers – each row shows an officer involved in a complaint. Some complaints have more than one officer involved and the same case will be represented by the same LOG_NO.

Individual privacy is crucial when publishing this type of data. Demographics of reported victims and officers–such as age, race and ethnicity, and gender–are reported in this data set. But in order to maintain confidentiality, the age of individuals are summarized in ten year ranges. Likewise, the data contains the tenure–the years on the force–is also denoted in ten-year increments.

The data contains cases handled by COPA (and its predecessor agency, IPRA) and CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA). Cases are updated on a regular basis. At the time of reporting, some cases may have not been resolved and still under investigation. BIA cases have information on the date and time of the complaint, but information on the reported victim and officer are withheld.

Image © City of Chicago


OpenGrid lets residents and visitors of Chicago navigate the city’s data based on where they are or where they are interested in exploring. Now, you can share those maps with others, like restaurants failing a food inspection in the past month, new business licenses issues within a few blocks from you, and potholes filled within the past week.

Last week, the newest version of OpenGrid supported the ability to share maps with others. After you run a search, you can share the URL with anyone. On desktops, copy and paste the URL from the web browser. On a mobile device, such as iPhone, iPad, or Android, you can click on the share button.

Combine relative dates, such as “today”, “yesterday” or “1 month” ago in your searches to always get the most relevant time frame.  For instance, you can look at ordinance violations from yesterday, last week, or last month. You can also customize the location of where you’re looking for data. It can be in a specific ward, like Ward 42, a custom drawn area, or the entire city.

More sharing features will be rolled out in the future. In the meantime, you can provide feedback on Twitter, via email, or by reporting an issue on GitHub.

In order to protect the health of beachgoers better, the Chicago Park District has expanded its use of a rapid testing method to evaluate water safety.  This method — used at nine beaches last summer and expanded to all 20 beaches for the swimming season that started the Friday of Memorial Day weekend — uses DNA testing of Enterococci.  It gives results in three to four hours instead of 18 to 24 hours with previous testing methods. This allows the Park District to issue its Green / Yellow / Red flags — corresponding to No Restrictions / Swim Advisory / Swim Ban — from lab results instead of predictions, verified with lab results the next day, as was necessary with previous technology. The test results are available on the City of Chicago Data Portal.

The City, Park District, and volunteer Data Scientists organized out of Chi Hack Night are working on an experimental technique to predict water safety at all beaches, based on DNA testing from a subset of beaches. This work is very early but there are hopes of being able to use it to manage beaches more economically in future summers. Preliminary data and a map can also be found on the Data Portal.

Feature image by Christopher and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology is hiring a pair of key positions that will shape the future of how the city uses technology in the future.

The Enterprise Architect is a senior role that oversees the city’s technical infrastructure, including network, server infrastructure, and more. They will play a key role in designing the future of the city’s architecture, including an increasing footprint in cloud computing services.

The city is also hiring a Postgres Database Administrator. The technology team has had a deep commitment to using open source software and will be expanding the use of Postgres as the enterprise database solution for city systems. The position will work with on-premise and cloud-based Postgres databases and helping migration some from Oracle to Postgres. You’ll work with a team of highly-experienced DBAs and reshape the city’s database platform.

On June 1 and June 2, 2017 OpenGrid will be featured as a part of Mozilla’s Global Sprint, a fun, fast-paced and two-day collaborative event to hack and build projects for a healthy Internet. Participants will be able to partner with a diverse network of scientists, educators, artists, engineers and others in person and online to innovate in the open.

Map of mozsprint 2017 location

mozsprint 2017 will be hosted June 1 and 2 at Make Offices, 1 North State Street #1500

OpenGrid is an open-source site that provides residents access to data about their community in a single map. Residents, researchers, and non-profits can use the data to find historical information on crimes, business licenses, building permits to real-time information on their phones or desktop. It’s mission is to improve Chicagoans’ ability to meaningfully use open data beyond the capacity of current data portals by providing residents and City leaders a way to visually understand complex municipal data. The site was launched by the City of Chicago in February 2016 and since then, released 4 new versions based on feedback we’ve received from casual users. Being an open-sourced project, the code is available to everyone, allowing this application to be made for residents and by residents.

Click button to register

If you are in the Chicago area and would like to attend in person please visit this site here for more details. Check-out OpenGrid’s roadmap and outstanding issues for ideas. Looking forward to collaborating with you!

Chicago has rolled-out a public test for a new feature designed to help scientists, journalists, archivists, and others to archive and preserve open data. In light of recent concerns about the removal of government data from public websites and data portals, particularly related to climate change, this new feature allows for data to be downloaded archived with a simple command in the R language.

All of the data, including maps, saved to your hard drive and time-stamped so you can easily see when the data was last preserved. The data are also compressed on your hard drive to to save space. In the near future, we will offer the ability to save data to the cloud to make it easier to save very large open data sets. Read the post on the city’s developers blog for instructions on installing and working with the the new features.

RSocrata is available for the R programming language and data hosted on Socrata open data portals, which is the largest open data portal provider in the world and is the portal for hundreds of federal agencies, state governments, and cities.

Right now, this is a public test of the new feature and may have some bugs. We welcome feedback and encourage you to report any issues on our bug tracker or email developers@cityofchicago.org.

RSocrata was developed and released by the City of Chicago in 2013 as a free, open source program. It has allowed researchers and programmers who use R to easily retrieve individual datasets. The program has been used to forecast ambulance and fire truck incidents, used by the City of New Orleans to generate performance reports, and mentioned in books teaching the fundamentals of data science. It is also used by Chicago’s data team on a regular basis, ranging from uploading and refreshing the open data portal to predicting food inspections.


Featured image “Open Data” Copyright (c) 2015 by Descrier

On Chicago’s Data Portal, there is no data more popular than the “Current Employee Names, Salaries, and Position Titles“. It is not as large or voluminous as many of the other data on the Data Portal, but has garnered a lot of interest. Now, the portal has even more information about city wages at your fingertips.

In addition to names, titles, and wages, you can now see if employees are full- or part-time and if they are paid on an hourly or annual salary. Even for hourly employees, whether they are expected to work 40, 35, or just 20-hours a week is viewable online and can be downloaded for free. A new dashboard also lets you explore the data interactively, quickly choosing and filtering for data you’d like to see, such as salaries by department or just for full-time workers.

New dashboard of current city employees lets you explore wages by department and employment level.

The new information on the Data Portal is designed to provide a more accurate picture of wages for city employees to help people look-up typical salaries, conduct research, or learn more about city wages.

Featured image “Chicago City Hall” © 2012 by Mike is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND-ND 2.0)

In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed an Executive Order which required the City of Chicago to have a data portal to post information about what the city does, how much it pays workers, and display other information that is useful for Chicagoans. Open data portals were still relatively new, but gaining in popularity. Chicago’s data portal went from a dozen data sets to hundreds. Since then, Chicago has learned more about what users need and which needed to be changed. Frequently, casual users would get lost in the ever-expanding data portal. While the amount of data increased, the interface did not and had not changed to accommodate the sheer volume of information.

Now, Chicago has launched a redesigned data portal based on this feedback. Visitors to the site will now see a clean interface that connects them with information, ranging from graphs, maps, to apps and raw data.

Desktop screenshot of the redesigned open data portal

Open data is not just for the tech savvy, but for all Chicagoans and visitors to the data portal. In fact, 40 percent of users describe themselves as someone in need of data or are just curious. Over the past 5 years, the Data Portal Team has receive a lot of feedback on the portal and a lot of questions. Those questions have given us insight to what is deficient and what is preventing more users from accessing it. In the past two years, Chicago has engaged in studies and focus groups to get feedback on a wide range of users.

The data portal now also connects users with other useful information, such as apps using Chicago data. Besides data itself, residents can use apps like SeeClickFix, Plow Tracker, SweepAround.us and other apps to get useful updates. Apps created by the City, associated non-profits or during city-sponsored hackathons will be included on the data portal, giving users access to something besides data on the portal.

Around 30% of Data Portal users were using some sort of mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. The new portal experience is optimized for people on mobile devices, not just desktops and laptops. The portal will be formatted to fit smaller screens with buttons that can be used with fingers. This is also important because research has shown that low-income Chicagoans are more likely to use their smartphone or tablet to access city services like the Data Portal. Improving the Portal on mobile devices also means greater equity of service to everyone.

Redesigned data portal on a tablet

Feedback goes beyond web surveys. We partnered with groups such as Smart Chicago Collaborative and ChiHackNight to conduct focus groups across users. In September 2016, the City of Chicago and Smart Chicago Collaborative hosted a feedback session on the new design at Woodson Regional Library in Washington Heights to give feedback on an earlier test version of the new portal.

Feedback from over a dozen casual, curious citizens was clear: they didn’t only expect to see data on the portal but also access to city services. So, the redesigned portal provides contextual information to services or information related to data. For instance, looking at the Business Licenses dataset also provides you links to apply for a business license using the city’s new online permitting system.

For the times you still cannot figure out how to use the portal, such as how to download data, Chicago has launched a dedicated YouTube playlist with tutorials on the data portal. Those tutorials are part of the Data Portal homepage so it’s easier to stumble across helpful tips.

[iframe width=”720″ height=”460″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/yjijSAL_6EU?list=PLRUxrvb7sFARx_WfL3ZTjM6DmhvZl34Mm” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]

Finally, the software developer, data scientists, startups and other tech savvy users obviously play a huge role in the redesigned data portal. There are clearer and more prominent links to the technical documentation needed to get started. Also, if you are interested in creating some software using the portal, the newly relaunched Chicago Developer’s website contains helpful documentation to get you started.

Designing a website is never “done”. You’ll see new tutorials added in the future and the roll out of even more new features in the near future. As always, the feedback we receive helps us plan the next set of features and data. Email or Tweet us with your feedback or questions.


Featured Image by Matthew Mazzei and released to the Public Domain (CC0).

Much as we take pride in our toughness through Midwestern winters, the real joy of living in this city is our Chicago summers.  High on the list of the summertime pleasures is outdoor dining at restaurants that offer it and finding such restaurants just got a bit easier.

Our new Sidewalk Cafe Permits dataset lists those businesses that have obtained the necessary permit to offer outdoor restaurant seating on the public way.  For those interested in long-term trends, the full dataset shows permits back to 2001.  However, if you just want to find a place to eat tonight, you will be more interested in the list of current permits.  Better yet, look at them on a map:

Permits are valid from March 1 to December 1 and more are added almost every day.  So, check back often and  bon appétit!