18th DA discusses transparency, data issues in quarterly livestream

Heather Willard

(Colorado 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office)

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Sept. 30, 2022

(Douglas County, Colo.) On Sept. 29, Colorado 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner sat down to discuss his office’s latest transparency project, a data dashboard, and what it means for community members seeking information.

The dashboard launched Sept. 8 in conjunction with seven other Colorado district attorney offices and the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab. It was funded through a Microsoft Justice Reform grant and uses data stored and shared by the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. Anyone can access the dashboard at data.dacolorado.org/18th/.

Kellner and Lauren Gase, senior researcher and project director with the Colorado Lab, discussed the team's difficulties and why the dashboard is useful internally for prosecutors and the community.

The prosecutorial data was previously “locked” in to case management software, said Kellner, making it nearly impossible to draw out patterns in the data, such as the rate of case filings by type or case dispositions.

Ultimately, the project goal is to create a template for other districts to upload data and expand across the state. Kellner said the other participating DAs are seeking to increase trust among constituents.

“A lot of (the district attorneys) came at it from the similar perspective where we feel like this is a time where there is a lot of lost trust in a lot of our institutions and a lot of our parts of government,” Kellner said.

“We all want to be a part of the solution here, and to the extent that we can honestly tell you what’s happening and then take an honest look at ourselves and say ‘is there something we could do better?’ We want to engage in that process.”

Gase said the data requires manipulation to be useful.

“I think you can see that reflected in a dashboard that you put forward — you’ve included different interpretations about what might be happening here, is this on target for where you want to go, what might be driving this,” Gase said, “and that’s really been the exciting work we’ve been able to do in partnership: make that meaning of it.”

Kellner noted several trends have already been found, such as a lower number of cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also that cases are still taking longer to resolve, with fewer court hearings. He said these types of trends can go unnoticed if data isn’t accessible.

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

Broomfield, CO

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