We support the recommendations made by the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board in their 2015 annual report. We believe OPA will build on several years of positive work and forward progress, and we encourage the police department’s internal investigator to release more and better data online so the public can better understand their work.
Civilian oversight of domestic police forces requires comprehensive public access to police data. From identifying trends that cause a small portion of Seattle Police Department officers to receive a disproportionate share of citizen complaints to reconciling differences between internal findings and independent analyses, many reasons exist for the public to want more of the public records created by SPD than the department currently publishes proactively.
The format of data provided is also important. Police public records should be created in a thorough, thoughtful and informative manner. For instance, it is difficult to search for keywords or to correlate reports involving particular staff when SPD prints electronic documents and re-scans them, rather than just sending the original electronic document. Such procedures can seem counter-intuitive, time-consuming and intentionally frustrating.
The public would be better informed about police accountability if OPA’s reporting was extended from summaries of their findings to include who was found to be at fault for sustained allegations and in what manner those staff were held accountable. Based on their own reporting, it appears OPA regularly find fault within the department but neither the staff who acted inappropriately nor those who commanded or approved of inappropriate actions are held accountable. This perception degrades public trust in our police. And without full access to OPA investigative files, the public are left to wonder if our police department is simply sweeping misconduct under the rug.