Police reform and "brutally honest" data: A chat with Seattle PD's new tech chief

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Last March, the Seattle Police Department made waves when it hired Amazon.com Vice President Greg Russell as its new chief information officer. The city's CIO must be more than just an IT expert: Whoever holds the position will have a hand in some of the department’s most pressing issues, particularly as it implements federally mandated police reforms. These include creating a system to recognize patterns of officer misconduct, balancing privacy issues with the collection of data to predict and fight crime, and implementing a body camera program for police in the city.

At the time of his hire, Geekwire reported that the position would be a “major cultural shift” for Russell, who had spent his career in the corporate trenches. This proved prescient: Russell abruptly quit only five months later, for reasons he would not disclose. In reaction, the department veered from hiring a cultural disruptor to hiring one of the most reliable tech experts in the local public sector.

Bill Schrier is a 30-year veteran of public service – serving as Seattle’s Chief Technology Officer from 2003 to 2012 – and one of the state’s top minds in civic tech. About a week into his tenure as the Seattle Police Department’s new CIO, he took time to discuss the biggest issues on the road ahead. The interview has been slightly abridged for length and clarity.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Drew Atkins

Drew Atkins

Drew Atkins is a journalist and writer in Seattle, and the recipient of numerous national and regional awards. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Seattle Times, The Oregonian, InvestigateWest, Geekwire, Seattle Magazine, and others. He also previously served as the managing editor of Crosscut. He can be contacted at drew.atkins@crosscut.com.