Recently, we had the privilege to interview Gregory Stanisci, the manager of BI and Data Analytics for York Regional Police. Greg is known across Canada and perhaps around the world as a pioneer in data analytics in police work. He sat down with CanadianCIO for an interview on York Region’s innovative approach to data analytics.
Canadian CIO: Greg, tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at York Regional Police.
Greg Stanisci: I’m the manager of business intelligence and data analytics. I was responsible for creating this department back in 2015.
I’ve been with York Regional Police (YRP) for 19 years. I had the opportunity to be involved in the implementation of our records management (RMS) and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system in the early part of my career at YRP (2005). Later, I became an IT project manager and was assigned business intelligence as a project to investigate – to create a business case and a model for what was required.
We went through a series of solutions and proof of concepts with the technology we had on site, like Microsoft SharePoint. This gave us an idea of what we could do as an organization if our data were better organized and more easily accessible for analysis.
This led to a full request for proposal (RFP) that I wrote back in 2015 for a full analytics solution. Then in 2016, we began working with two key vendors to build the solution we’ve put together and continued to evolve.
Initially, our executive sponsor was the Deputy Chief of Operations. But now we report to the Deputy Chief of Administration – Paulo Da Silva, who is now the executive sponsor of our BI and Data Analytics department.
It’s always been an executive driven department as we see the value of data for the whole organization.
Canadian CIO: While you do value the IT component of this, and indeed you started in IT, you’ve indicated that this is not purely an “IT project”.
Greg Stanisci: It’s quite common for Analytics projects to be treated as a standard technology project – something that has a start and an end. The end usually relates to transferring that responsibility to someone in your organization. There was no department in our organization that was capable of or had the capacity, vision, or ability to maintain a data warehouse, dashboards, or analytics applications. Our solution supports administrative, resource management, as well as operational functions.
That led to the creation of our business intelligence and analytics department that we’ve been able to build over the last few years – to a point where we are recognized in Canada as a leader in Law Enforcement Analytics. We have had the pleasure of hosting many law enforcement agencies from across North America and Europe to study the solutions we’ve created. There’s been a lot of great support and great respect for the applications and data warehouse that we’ve produced with our main partner TIBCO.
Canadian CIO: When did the light go on for you about what the potential for data was at YRP?
Greg Stanisci: I attended a Gartner BI and Analytics conference in Las Vegas, in 2014 and 2015. I had always been passionate about technology and the value of data. We had a lot of data in transactional systems like records management and dispatch systems.
I also realized its potential when I was supervising the database administrators (DBAs) in our IT department, who were spending a great deal of their time creating reports. We did a lot of ad hoc reporting, which I did not feel was an effective use of our time.
CanadianCIO: How so?
Greg Stanisci: The insights our staff was getting from reports and spreadsheets were limited. When I saw data analytics as a solution, at my first Gartner conference, a light went on.
I knew that there was a lot of potential with these technologies to help modernize our organization with real time access to data. This wasn’t something I could do off the side of my desk, because in project management, you’ll run four or five projects. This is why many organizations without a dedicated analytics team struggle to bring a major solution like this to life.
Our organization took a leap of faith and decided to invest in data analytics solutions. It wasn’t long before we started winning awards with our GIS and Data partners and were recognized for the innovative ways we were leveraging data in policing.
CanadianCIO: What is your team working on these days?
Greg Stanisci: We are very proud to have launched our new Community Safety Data Portal. This solution was built with the vision that “community safety is a shared responsibility”. We have now empowered the public with data analytics and GIS to be more engaged in crime prevention and investigations. They can now better understand the crime trends that are affecting their neighbourhoods and, more importantly, learn what they can do to help keep their family and community safe.
CanadianCIO: Where do we find this?
Greg Stanisci: You can visit yrp.ca. You’ll see the link to the Community Safety Data Portal at the top of the page. The data for this solution is fed by TIBCO’s data management technology.
CanadianCIO: Has this solution been well received? You have been evangelizing this solution?
Greg Stanisci: I’ve been doing roadshows at every municipality in York Region (we have 9 in total). All of our mayors and councilors have been very impressed by this new solution and the insights it provides to all our communities. We are also very proud of the fact that we had over 100 members of our community engaged during the design and implementation phases, which had a significant effect on the great adoption we have seen.
CanadianCIO: You’ve kept the public engaged – but you’ve also worked to engage the officers in the department. Tell us more about this.
Greg Stanisci: We’ve empowered our officers and our commanders to be data driven. We have done our best to streamline and give easy access to data for all areas of our organization.
Just to give you a sense of how we use data differently: we created a priority patrol zone solution. It allows officers “on the road” to be more aware of the crimes affecting their sectors so that they can be in the right place at the right time.
CanadianCIO: You’ve certainly put the right tools in the hands of the officers. Have these tools changed how you manage your resources?
Greg Stanisci: Yes. What we never knew as a police service was how much time was allocated to particular areas of our department. So, we created a dashboard within our TIBCO environment that summarized how much time officers spent in a particular neighborhood, subdivision, or priority patrol zone.
CanadianCIO: You’ve had a lot of accomplishments. What are you working on right now?
Greg Stanisci: We are developing a member wellness analytics solution right now. We are looking at how we can use data to support the wellness of all our members, both sworn and civilian. We created a complete tiering system to measure the intensity of calls our officers attend. It will also allow us to better understand the intensity of the experiences anyone in our organization may face. As a member of a police service, you hear or read, or get involved in the most challenging things that happen in our society. We are offering everyone in our organization the opportunity to record their experience, whether it’s an operational experience, investigative experience or administrative experience and allowing them to flag these experiences for follow up.
This solution will hopefully aid us in connecting with members who may not have spoken up personally in the past, to ensure they are supported.
Our psychologists are supporting the design and testing of this solution. My team is leading the technical aspects of the project such as creating dashboards and new data sets that have never existed before. We’re hoping to roll out this solution later this year.
Canadian CIO: It seems like you’re doing what you should be doing. You’re going to the operation, you’re asking, “what are your challenges” and then going back to your team and saying, “how can we help?” Many IT leaders might find that challenging. They have budgets and resource requirements, so do you want to go and say, what more can we do? That’s difficult. How did you cope with that?
Greg Stanisci: When I started on our BI journey, I was a Project Manager with 12 to 13 years in policing. My goal was not to start and finish as many projects as I could in a year – my goal was to help our members and our organization. I started every project by asking our officers to describe their challenges and I would take those away and come back with potential solutions.
CanadianCIO: And did they welcome that approach?
Greg Stanisci: Yes, they did, but in the beginning, it took time to help them understand the potential of our data and modern analytics applications. I couldn’t start the meetings by asking them what do you want to see in a Dashboard? If I did, they would look at me like I had two heads. We also resisted the common temptation to just automate reports that had been in circulation for five years, where we had no idea how often that report was being used and how valuable that report was.
CanadianCIO: One last question for you, where do you want to go from here?
Greg Stanisci: There are always more opportunities within policing to improve processes or create efficiencies with data, but now that we have created our new Community Safety Data Portal, we are able to directly engage our community as well. This portal has opened the door to new data driven solutions that will allow us to continue to increase community participation in the safety and wellness of our Region.
Canadian CIO: As taxpayers and citizens we’re happy to see you – and all policing agencies – succeed and make our world safer and more secure. Thank you for your time and your service.