Evergreen PD Releases Officer Involved Shooting Data
Chief John Smith promises greater transparency for the public into department activity, increased officer accountability, and improved officer safety.
Setting a New Standard for Transparency
The US Justice Department (DOJ) has asked the nation’s local police departments—numbering more than 17,000— to self-report officer involved shootings (OIS) but, at last count, only 750 actually do. The Evergreen Police Department has not only taken on the responsibility to report its data, but has gone much further, giving the DOJ and anyone with access to the web a full review of every officer-involved shooting since 2003.
“We will provide as much information as possible,” says Evergreen Police Chief John Smith.
Community Turmoil Sparks New Agenda
Chief Smith took on his role in 2012 amid unrest over a recent officer-involved shooting in South Evergreen. While no protests erupted at the time, Chief Smith could see that the community needed healing and made a public commitment to rebuild trust between the department and the citizens it serves. In particular, he promised greater transparency for the public into department activity, increased officer accountability, and improved officer safety.
“You can't have enough oversight when it comes to police officer-involved shootings in any city.”-Evergreen Police Chief
New Policies for Better Outcomes
As a sign of its commitment to connect with its community, the Evergreen Police Department quickly developed and publicly shared a philosophy statement to guide its officers in the use of force. The statement emphasizes the protection of human life is the primary goal of the department. When publishing the statement, Chief Smith also announced new policies to support the department’s mission, including:
- Notification of the FBI Civil Rights Office of all officer-involved shootings
- Development of a foot pursuit policy
- Enhanced review of digital video recordings by a specialized unit
- An improved consensual search policy
- Mandated Taser training and certification for all officers
Evergreen Police Chief addresses press before town hall meeting.
Officer Involved Shooting Data Release a Milestone
Within a couple of years, Chief Smith expanded his efforts to reach the community by releasing officer involved shooting data online - a monumental step toward greater transparency.
The data starts with 2003 and includes full detail on each incident. Portions of the data are summarized and visualized for easy review by citizens, such as number of incidents per year. Plus, behind each chart, graph, and map, citizens can access the complete, original data and learn more information about what interests them most.
Stating his motivation for releasing the data, Police Chief Smith said, “You can't have enough oversight when it comes to police officer-involved shootings in any city.”
Many Data Points Available
A large variety of data is available for each incident, such as the full names of the officers involved, the exact geo-coordinates, and the grand jury disposition deciding whether the officers’ actions were ruled criminal (true-billed) or not criminal (no-billed). Other data includes:
- Case #, date, location, subject(s), officer(s), longitude and latitude of the incident
- Subject weapon; subject deceased, injured, or shoot and miss
- Grand jury disposition, link to Attorney General’s report, link to written summary of the incident
Regarding the information shared about whether the use of force is ruled criminal or not, Chief Smith said, “We hope that by putting that process out there it helps people to educate themselves and understand why these shootings sometimes end up the way they do in the criminal justice system.”
Visuals Help Increase Understanding
Beyond publishing a comprehensive list of officer involved shootings from 2003-2015, the police department has created visuals that tell a more complete story to website visitors. There’s a map with an interactive pinpoint for each incident since 2003. Full detail is available with just one click. Also, citizens can see a chart of most common weapons used by crime subjects since 2003. The charts, graphs, and maps all respond to user interaction to encourage engagement and exploration.
“We hope that by putting that process out there it helps people to educate themselves and understand why these shootings sometimes end up the way they do in the criminal justice system.”-Evergreen Police Chief
Improved Officer Safety
In order to minimize the need for force during interactions with the public, the Evergreen Police Department has been enhancing the number and variety of trainings its officers go through to prepare them for risky situations. Trainings include simulations of common scenarios, verbal skills training for more effective communication, crisis-intervention training to de-escalate extremely tense situations, and training on the degree of force necessary to take control in a particular setting.
“You’ll see that we are concerned with how we conduct ourselves when we use deadly force, but you’ll also see that it’s important to us that officers are safe,” Police Chief Smith told a local news station in Evergreen.
The department estimates that its officers have roughly 1,000,000 citizen contacts per year. And, it admits that keeping everyone safe is a challenge, stating on its website, “Officers have an occupational responsibility to enter into circumstances which clearly could place them in danger while they are serving the community.”
A Future of Continued Effort and Excellence
Police Chief John Smith and his police force are not done tackling the issues around use of force. Based on a recommendation from the Evergreen Police Association, the Evergreen Police Department is investing several million dollars in outfitting every officer with a body camera.
"Our folks are paying attention to what's happening out in the rest of the country, and they see the value of wearing a body camera,” Smith told the press. “Complaints go down, use of force incidents go down, officers are safer, citizens are safer when you have a camera.”
When he first announced his commitment to greater transparency, greater accountability, and better training for officers back in 2012, Chief Smith was quoted as saying, “I understand that this trust is hard to earn, but easy to lose.” He and the rest of the Evergreen Police Department plan on continuing to work hard to stay connected to and earn the trust of their community.
This is a fictional story based on the exceptional efforts made by the Dallas Police Department. Resources Used: