If it hadn’t been for the efforts Ben Wellington of I Quant NY, the City of New York would have collected almost $5 million in erroneous parking ticket revenue from drivers.
According to NYC law, it is legal to park next to a pedestrian ramp as long as there is no marked crosswalk attached to it. However, this policy was only adhered to by traffic agents and meter maids and not the uniformed police officers who also have the authority to issue parking citations.
As a result, many previously unhappy motorists have been spared the wrath of the city’s famously relentless fine collection. But why else might this be significant?
As it turns out, open data is not just useful for user convenience. It can actually reveal serious structural issues, in this case in that of government systems. These findings actually resulted in the New York City Police Department (NYPD) retraining all of its personnel, officers and traffic agents, to apply the same standards in all situations when issuing parking violations.
Imagine if this same sort of investigation were applied towards police misconduct allegations. Many defendants who have been falsely charged of crimes might not even know that they can have their charges thrown out if the arresting officer has a prior history of substantiated complaints against them. So imagine a database which would allow the public the access records over officers’ histories and whether or not their actions have been worthy of reproach. Such use of open data would not only allow citizens to protect themselves against blatant miscarriage of justice, but also allow cities to better discipline their employees and at the same time being able to more effectively defend themselves against frivolous litigation.