With “Pledge to Patrol,” Los Angeles expects to recruit a more diverse and experienced crop of police officers by allowing young adults to work in the Los Angeles Police Department before they are old enough to join the Police Academy. Under the program, participants will spend up to 20 hours a week working in civilian roles, including assisting the watch commander, working at the front desk and taking down crime reports, performing minor evidence collection, entering and retrieving data, and observing and assisting with patrol functions. The paid positions will also allow the young women and men, typically high school graduates, to continue their higher education at the same time. The mayor’s Innovation Team designed the program with the LAPD and the city’s personnel department.
States are creating different ways to strengthen their cybersecurity capabilities in an era in which hackers and cybercriminals are increasing their focus on government networks. Virginia is looking to veterans through a pilot program that will provide them with free training and assistance in attaining cybersecurity industry certification and Colorado is setting up a nine-month paid internship at the state technology department for service members leaving the military. Several states are partnering with private industry to provide cyber skills to high school and college students, with top performers having the chance to earn scholarships. Other states are working on mentoring for young women to give them the skills and support to pursue a cybersecurity career.
In the UK, the city of Bath and Bath: Hacked, a civic tech volunteer group, have created Energy Sparks, an app and platform for local schools to help them visualize their energy usage in near real time and compete with other schools in the gamification of saving energy. Schools reduced their energy consumption by 30 percent in some cases when the project was first trialed, and the goal is to expand the program to all local schools in the area. The platform is also integrated into lesson planning, allowing students and teachers to identify areas of energy waste and conceive of different means to combat it.
As computer analytics continue to spread throughout government service delivery, New York City has passed legislation mandating the formation of a task force to monitor the fairness of algorithms used by municipal agencies. The task force, to be comprised of experts in automated systems and representatives of groups affected by these systems, will examine their use and make recommendations on how to improve accountability and transparency and to avoid bias. A flawed algorithm can lead to consequences such as someone being denied a rightful public benefit or remaining in jail for too long.
Recognizing that stable housing has a significant influence on health, Massachusetts’s Boston Medical Center is investing $6.5 million over five years in affordable housing projects in areas where a large percentage of its patients live in an effort to improve community and patient health. The hospital initiative, which will also track how housing security can reduce medical costs, is partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Boston Public Health Commission in the effort. Hospital data shows that 25 percent of admitted patients are homeless and one in three families have insecure housing or are in danger of eviction. Officials note that insecure housing has been tied to asthma, lead exposure, and depression, and can put patients in the position of having to choose between paying for medication or rent.
San Francisco is set to apply “surge pricing” on its 28,000 parking meters based on demand. The move, akin to the pricing used by some ride-sharing companies, will change the hourly rate of parking spots depending on time of day and location, down to the nearest block. Officials note that demand pricing is will be revenue neutral, with the main purpose being to get people into empty parking spaces as quickly as possible. Hourly parking rates will be reviewed, and possibly raised or lowered in 25-cent increments depending upon usage every three months.
In the United Kingdom, five towns and cities will be chosen to work with engineers and planners to become testing areas for civilian drones to deliver medical supplies, and assist with emergency services and traffic monitoring, among other possibilities. The Flying High Challenge is being unveiled as the Department of Transport looks to increase drone safety regulations to prevent accidents and protect privacy.