New portal puts Hennepin County Attorney's data at the public's fingertips

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The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office took a big step forward when it comes to serving justice in a transparent way Thursday.

Prosecutors launched a new online tool that gives the public access to years of statistical information involving criminal cases, including racial breakdowns.

Racial discrepancies involving criminal justice cases are a hot topic right now, so the Attorney’s Office said it hopes their new data dashboard will give the public all the information it needs. 

“I don’t think the criminal justice system is the answer to all of society’s issues,” said Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County Attorney.

Freeman rolled out his office’s new, online, interactive case data tracker Thursday. He hopes it will increase the transparency of his office, including what are perceived as unjust outcomes over time.

“I’m not sure we’ll ever be perfect, but I think the level of disparity is still too high in my view,” Freeman said.

The veteran prosecutor is concerned that Hennepin County’s population breaks down to 69 percent white, 13 percent African-American and less than 1 percent Native American.

However, Freeman’s office says that over the last four years are so, African-Americans made up 54 percent of those prosecuted for serious crimes. 33 percent are white and Native Americans top out at 5 percent.

“I think that this information, this data should cause the system to look at itself and begin to reconsider the ways in which it’s been practicing the law, administering these reports we are generating and dealing with,” said Pastor Danny Givens, of the new program.

Givens said he’s appalled by the racial discrepancies within the criminal justice system and hopes more transparency will indeed lead to more change.

Hennepin County’s effort puts the raw numbers at the public’s fingertips, with a user able to see for themselves the crimes charged, the racial and ethnic breakdowns and the geographical trends dating back to 2014 with daily updates.

Freeman believes it’s the most revealing, publicly available statistical breakdown out of any prosecutor’s office in the country.