The Benefits of Transparent Data for Both Leaders and the Community

 Increased transparency benefits leaders and the community.

Most public safety stakeholders are undoubtedly aware of the value of transparency, or at least the increased demands for it in the wake of several high-profile use-of-force cases.  

Indeed, the tragic death of Laquan McDonald illustrates how public trust can be damaged when transparency and accountability are not apparent.  

Of course, a beneficially transparent relationship with the public is one that also benefits leadership: The more people trust the agencies that serve them, as one extensive RAND Corp writeup on transparency notes, the more they are likely to give them the benefit of the doubt when situations arise that could be perceived as questionable.

For law enforcement, transparency isn’t a “why”—it’s a “when”  

Ultimately, trying to withhold data from the public is futile. Even if agencies were actively hindering transparency, the digital world is such that information is readily available, broadly distributed, and quickly shared.  

While there are naturally some exclusions to what should be released—such as investigative materials pending charges or other determinations—it makes sense to release as much information as possible.

Transparency isn’t just the right thing to do—in a very real sense, it is the only policy an agency concerned about its relationship with the public can hope to maintain.  

Maintaining comprehensive, centralized and easily accessible policies, records, and personnel information provides the agency with the ability to quickly respond to any issues, should they arise.

Yet, agencies still struggle to translate that idea from a policy level to a practical one. Knowing the whats, whens, and hows of data release is a highly specific process that relies on everything from the agency’s past to its modern operational status to make informed decisions.

Agencies should strive to implement points of infrastructure that enhance, guide, and ultimately enrich their specific transparency plans.  

Embracing tools that support better transparency in law enforcement

How does your agency move forward with its transparency plans?  

If you’re following our recommendation and building out infrastructure first, your primary point of consideration comes down to three words: speed of reporting.

This is important to note for two reasons.  

  • Speed of informed decision-making. When a decision regarding an incident is fully informed, with multiple points of data allowing supervisors to see the breadth of the employee’s tenure and the situation they may have created, executives can make the calls that quell community outrage—for example, immediately suspending an officer behind a suspected use-of-force incident until investigation continues because the initial evidence complies with union suspension bylaws.  
  • Speed of information release. Simply put, the more information executive decisionmakers have at their fingertips, the easier it is to decide what the public needs to know for transparency. How the decisionmaker acts on that specific information will be a case-by-case decision. The important part is that it’s always there, at the ready.  

Designed to support legally defensible decision-making from the earliest moments to final resolution, the Acadis® Readiness Suite supports agencies while understanding the need for greater transparency—with at-a-glance reporting on discipline history, training, evaluations, and other key data.

See what Acadis can do for your agency.

The National Decertification Index (NDI) is a national registry of police officers whose law enforcement credentials have been revoked due to misconduct.

For more than 10 years, the NDI has provided police departments, state agencies, and other organizations with decertification data about potential hires.

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