Brooklyn DA partners with CUNY to improve accountability

March 21, 2019 Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
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Just 10 days after Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez revealed the details of his Justice 2020 initiative, he announced that a major piece of that plan is already underway.

Gonzalez’s office is partnering with the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG). Together on a data and transparency initiative that will improve the district attorney office’s ability to gather and use data to enhance prosecutors’ decision-making and improve transparency.

“A twenty-first century, progressive prosecutor’s office must be guided by data, which informs policies and allows for greater accountability and transparency,” Gonzalez said in a statement on March 21. “This unique collaboration will make my office smarter, more focused, more mission-driven and will put us in the best position to gauge the effectiveness of our Justice 2020 initiatives. We intend to share what we learn with other prosecutorial agencies, researchers and the public.”

The first phase of this initiative is already underway. For the next year, the ISLG is helping the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office improve its ability to gather, track and analyze data in order to guide its policies. This includes reviewing their current systems of collecting and tracking data to better understand how they can improve and where priorities should be.

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The district attorney’s office said that the initial assessment is nearly complete and that the ISLG already delivered one report in February.

The second step is a nine-month implementation phase. The ISLG will work with the district attorney to implement their recommendations with a focus on Gonzalez’s Justice 2020 plan. This includes making recommendations on decision-making of prosecutors in the courtrooms based off of the data they’ve collected and analyzed.

“By investing in data and analytics, DA Gonzalez is taking an important step toward transparency and accountability that can serve as a model for other offices across the nation,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the ISLG.

Using data to drive his office’s practices is something that Gonzalez promoted when he campaigned, and said it was essential to transparency and reform. So it was no surprise to see that it was a major part of the Justice 2020 Initiative he announced on March 11.

The report says that a new data system is required to carry out the vision of Justice 2020.

“The DA should develop new metrics, aligned with the goals of Justice 2020, to measure the work of both individual ADAs and the Office as a whole,” the report says. “External reporting facilitates a culture of transparency throughout the Office. Since few prosecutors’ officers produce data reports, external reporting will demonstrate the reform leadership of Justice 2020 and strengthen community trust.”

The report also recommended regular public reports, in line with what Gonzalez promised while campaigning.

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