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Tom Weitzel: Transparent and open policing in our communities

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 4:11 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:59 p.m. CST
Caption
(Submitted photo)
Riverside Chief of Police Tom Weitzel.

There has been a lot of talk over the last several years about open and transparent government. I’d like to talk to you about open and transparent policing.

The mission of the Riverside Police Department is to support open and transparent government through open and transparent policing, which should really be the strategy for all law-enforcement agencies in the United States. Transparency, when used in a social context, implies openness, communication and accountability.

What is open and transparent policing? Transparent police organizations inform the community about its actions and respond to questions about what it’s doing and the reasons why. Within the police service, there must be a dynamic culture of accountability, which supports the principles of openness and transparency. All officers including staff must be willing to engage in a dialogue with the community in relation to policing issues that provide full and frank information about the police and their performance.

Some of the areas that police departments must be transparent and accountable include citizen complaints, performance, training, policies, procedures, funding, grants, budgets and the hiring process — just to name a few. Police departments must create opportunities for educational exchange between the police and the community. This is vital. We also must create and maintain communication and follow-ups between police and the citizens we serve.

Some methods that the Riverside Police Department has used in the past include community-satisfaction surveys, videos and training material made available to public, access to the police department’s website including documents posted on the website, engaging in forums both large and small to update the community on current events and making sure materials are available in languages other than English.

Police executives throughout the country must take a leadership role and immediately to move toward making open and transparent policing a top priority.

Police organizations are only transparent when communications between the police and citizens occur every day. I have started today.

Thomas Weitzel is the chief of police for the village of Riverside

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