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Transparency Tracker

What happened to the arrest, use of force data Penn State police promised to release?

by Wyatt Massey of Spotlight PA State College |

University police responded to 2020 protests for greater racial justice by pledging to be more transparent with arrest and use of force data. But where is it?
Dan Nott / For Spotlight PA

The Penn State Transparency Tracker is an ongoing effort by Spotlight PA to document and share the ways in which the university is, and is not, being transparent with the community. Due to its special “state-related” designation, Penn State is not subject to open records laws beyond the public disclosure of basic financial information.

UPDATE (April 6, 2023): The 2021 and 2022 data is now available at https://police.psu.edu/upps-data.

STATE COLLEGE — Following campus protests in 2020 demanding greater racial justice, Penn State’s University Police and Public Safety division launched a “transparency and accountability initiative” and pledged to publish data related to use of force, arrests, citizen complaints, and traffic stops.

A senior vice president at Penn State described the move in December 2020 as “an example of the department’s dedication to being responsive to the Penn State community and the ongoing dialogue regarding equity and justice.”

On their website, university police write that “data will be released on an annual basis no later than March of the following calendar year.” According to this schedule, data for 2021 should have been available by March 2022.

However, as of early January, the most recent data available online is from 2020.

Why has the university not released data for 2021? Spotlight PA asked Penn State police the following questions:

  1. Why has the university not released UPPS data from 2021?

  2. When will the 2021 data be released?

  3. Does UPPS expect to release data for 2022 by March 2023, as stated in its pledge to provide key information to the public?

Penn State responded in an email:

“Unfortunately, the 2021 data has been delayed as it requires checks from other areas across the University and we are currently in the process of receiving that evaluated data,” Jacqueline Sheader, a public information officer with campus police, wrote in mid-December. “It is our intention to provide pertinent data on our website in as timely a manner as possible.”

Seeking clarity, Spotlight PA followed up with these questions:

  1. Could you please provide a bit more information about what “checks from other areas across the university” means? What departments have to check or approve the data before UPPS can release it?

  2. Does UPPS expect a delay similar to the ongoing one for 2021 data for the release of 2022 data?

University police did not respond to these questions or a follow-up email sent two weeks later.

Based on that information, here’s what you need to know:

Penn State police missed their own deadline for publishing 2021 data on use of force, arrests, citizen complaints, and traffic stops. It remains unclear when that information will be released, as well as who in the university must check or approve the police data before it is made public.

Have an idea for the Penn State Transparency Tracker? Submit tips or questions to wmassey@spotlightpa.org. You can also share documents and other materials to help make our reporting more robust. Read more about sharing such information here.

This story first appeared in Talk of the Town, a weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA’s State College regional bureau featuring the most important news and happenings in north-central Pennsylvania. Sign up for free here. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability and public-service journalism that gets results.

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