Introduction

In Phase I of this project, OPO examined whether APD’s current body-worn and dashboard camera policies aligned with best practices, relevant laws, and the City of Austin’s policies, goals, and values.

OPO discussed key findings from Phase I in a reportopen_in_new published in January 2022.[1] One of the main issues discussed in the report was the role of private vendors and community voices in APD’s policymaking process. The pages that follow revisit that topic, discussing key findings from OPO’s research into the policymaking practices of 15 other U.S. police departments, insights from feedback provided by Austin community members, and final policy recommendations as to the role of vendors and community input in the policymaking process.

Takeaways

1. Community input is necessary to improve policy, but feedback needs to be obtained intentionally.

Austin community members indicated a desire for more engagement opportunities and different engagement opportunities. Responses suggest a need to utilize new processes to engage the people who are most impacted by APD policies and involve those people from the very beginning.

2. None of the responding cities use vendors for policy writing.

OPO asked police departments and oversight bodies from 15 cities across the country about their use of vendors for policy writing and 8 cities responded. None of these 8 cities currently contract with vendors to write policy. The 8 responding cities were as follows:

  • Baltimore
  • Charlotte
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Fort Worth
  • Portland
  • San Antonio
  • San Francisco

3. Vendor policies may indirectly impact cities that keep their policymaking processes in-house.

While the majority of the 15 cities do not contract with vendors to write policy, several said that they examine other police departments’ policies when researching best practices. This process may lead to vendors having an indirect impact on the policies of departments that intentionally avoid contracting with vendors.

4. Police departments use a range of methods to collect community input, and the departments with more structured processes take a multi-faceted approach that includes opportunities for both a broad response and a more focused response.

Some police departments, like the Denver Police Department and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, collect community input periodically based on the nature of the policy at issue.[2] Other police departments, like the San Francisco Police Department and the Portland Police Bureau, seek community feedback regularly as an established part of the policymaking process.[3] San Francisco and Portland both require periods of public comment as part of the review process for most policies, and both also seek input from subject matter experts, advisory groups, and/or working groups.[4]

5. Some oversight entities redirected questions about policymaking to their city’s police department, citing a lack of detailed information.

This may suggest that current policymaking processes in these police departments lack transparency or that oversight bodies in these cities are not directly and routinely involved in the police department’s policymaking processes.

Contact information

contact_phone
Main office: (512) 974-9090
Complaint and thank-you hotline: (512) 972-2676

Contact information

contact_phone
Main office: (512) 974-9090
Complaint and thank-you hotline: (512) 972-2676
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