The Obama Administration has moved the needle for expectations around civic engagement and transparency at the federal level. But let’s face it: when it comes to such a fundamental shift in stance, change is scary, and government agencies can either make it easy or make it difficult. Government has started to inch toward innovation, but often as the exception, not the rule. Even when agencies enthusiastically support the concept of collaboration, what motivates them to exercise leadership and embrace change on behalf of their constituents?
Law enforcement agencies are among the most protective and criticized public agencies in government at any level. With limited budgets and no formal state or federal oversight, they are also fiercely independent and self-preserving. Even so, during the past two years, more than 600 law enforcement agencies have voluntarily chosen to publish their data to the largest public safety Web 2.0 service in the world, CrimeReports.com. Other private groups and vendors apply pressure using sunshine laws, open records requests, or flanking challenges through the city council or mayor to gain access to the data, often antagonistically to the law enforcement agency responsible for the data. Not surprisingly, they are often met with resistance.
Ultimately, CrimeReports.com seeks to enable the government platform in law enforcement, and is currently building an interface to allow members of the public or law enforcement to write applications that will interact with the data and return results in real time. The objective is to enable the best ideas to emerge to help prevent terrorism, prevent and reduce crime and protect our communities at the lowest total cost.
CrimeReports founder and CEO Greg Whisenant discusses the balance between political will and simple technological tools that help agencies take a more friendly stance when it comes to empowering citizens with knowledge, radically changing the cost structure of delivering service and pressing forward to make government available as a platform.
Greg Whisenant is founder and CEO of Public Engines, which makes the CrimeReports.com web application. Previously, Greg started and was General Manager of Wasatch Solutions, a networking services and software development firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Before starting Wasatch Solutions in 2001, Greg worked in several positions in the technology field. Previously, he was a senior legislative advisor for law firm Hale and Dorr in Washington, DC, where he directed the legislative strategies of multiple Fortune 500 technology companies, including EMC and Micron. Greg also worked for several years as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Robert F. Bennett (R-UT), where he handled law enforcement, technology and telecommunications issues.
For several years, Greg has been selected as a member of the vSpring v100, a list of the top 100 technology entrepreneurs in the State of Utah. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University (BA, English Literature 1993) and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (Master in Public Policy, 1997). He is also fluent in Spanish.
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