Police Transparency a Must

There is a social contract between law enforcement and the communities in which they work, requiring transparency and trust. But that can be extremely difficult to achieve. 

Practical Implications

Roughly half of Americans say they have a declining perception of police and other law enforcement agencies primarily because of what they perceive as a lack of transparency. This suggests that agencies must shine more light on policies and procedures and give the public greater access to data and decisions made by top officials if they want the trust they need for maximum efficiency. That means agencies will necessarily incorporate clear policies designed to build visibility into the world of law enforcement: 

  • Use modern technology to track and report crime, officer response, personnel issues, and so forth.
  • Implement a civilian review board that works with law enforcement with the power to provide oversight, accountability, and updates to the public.
  • Create policies, annual reports, organizational charts, and additional data whenever possible that is available online for the public to peruse.
  • Create avenues for police accountability that make sense to the public. When it comes to use-of-force issues and the public finds particular actions questionable or inhumane, but the department stands behind them, there should be an explanation/rationale for such procedures and when or why they are deployed.  If certain officers have multiple issues one after another they should be held accountable for that. And when officers clearly lack compassion and decency, they should be removed from the force.
  • Publicize every use-of-force incident and include documentation on relevant demographic information, the type of force and reason it was used, and the officers involved.
  • Review and evaluate events that involve complicated issues and result in negative outcomes that could be prevented in similar situations down the road.

Benefits of Transparency

The fact is that the majority of information the general public receives about police actions comes from news stories.  That being said, how might transparency improve community perceptions of law enforcement?  Many stories that have gotten a lot of traction in recent years have exposed officers as ruthless, punishing enforcers who appear to enjoy their aggression toward citizens. The question is, are those isolated incidents or common practice? Transparency and accountability can answer the questions the public has about these incidents and, if effectively handled, can boost community confidence in the police. When there is a wall of secrecy around police agencies, the public can be counted on to assume the worst. 

We know there are legitimate problems in any organization and that when they are handled openly, the opportunities for remediation of policy are much more likely, satisfying the public demand for better outcomes when police deal with racial disparities, mental health issues, juvenile offenders, and other problems front and center on the public agenda.

Improvement is Possible

There is good and bad in every agency, and we know that sweeping problems under the rug is no recipe for improvement. At Boertje and Associates, our aggressive criminal defense attorneys advocate for transparency in law enforcement. If you have had a run-in with the law, contact our San Diego office for a confidential consultation today.

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