What to Expect When Implementing Transparency in Agencies

May 12, 2022 by Colin Watts

What to Expect When Implementing Transparency in Agencies

Public demand and legislation are driving law enforcement agencies to provide visibility into law enforcement data. When implementing a transparency initiative, agencies can expect both positive and critical reception from the public. Learn what to expect and how to manage the conversation around the data below.

1. Positive Public Reaction

Often, the public’s first reaction to a transparency initiative is positive. The community may applaud an agency’s effort to connect with residents and build trust. Taking the first step toward transparency provides an opportunity to shine the spotlight on an agency and garner positive media attention.

2. Data Sleuthing

The public eye will spur curiosity. Community members will dive into the data searching for meaning behind the numbers, and they may even call for additional transparency or question how the data is collected or measured. Agencies should be prepared to address questions about the data and plans to continue fostering transparency.

3. Questioning Tactics

Some statistics may hint at law enforcement bias or appear unfavorable. This is normal; it’s unlikely crime and other incidents would be perfectly distributed across all demographics and geographic areas in a community. Law enforcement data typically shows an overrepresentation of incidents in one or more areas, but it’s often due to innocuous circumstances, like a higher population density or concentration of businesses in the area.

By analyzing and understanding their data before it’s made available to the public, agencies can identify potential pitfalls and prepare statements before they’re put on the spot.

4. Evolution of Police-Community Relationship

With newfound visibility into law enforcement data, agencies can expect the public to engage in conversation more frequently. While this may sound intimidating, conversations around an agency’s data can be positive and productive. They provide an opportunity to highlight important initiatives, discuss the positive impact an agency has on the community, determine the community’s sentiment around law enforcement, and gather feedback that may indicate potential challenges before they escalate.

The public may initiate conversations via town hall meetings, social media, news media, and other channels. Skirting around these conversations can give off the wrong message and fuel a data-backed fire, but if an agency is receptive to — and expecting — questions, they can control the dialog. Consider publishing a regular report, giving transparency updates during town hall meetings, or providing another controlled channel for conversations.

5. Changes May Be Necessary

If a legitimate problem is identified in an agency — whether discovered internally or surfaced publicly — changes may need to occur. When an agency can pinpoint a problem with their data, the solution and game plan become much clearer. These changes may involve implementing accountability technology, pushing for legislation, or defining a tactic for officers to comply with.

In the end, making data-backed changes protects agencies, officers, and the public. After changes have been implemented, agencies have yet another opportunity to garner positive attention and demonstrate how they are listening to their community.

Transparency can be a driver of positive outcomes, and agencies are trying to keep up with the public demand for visibility. The right technology can ensure an agency is equipped to provide transparency, understand their data, and create a plan of action when addressing necessary changes.

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