Recommendations for Improving APD’s Policy Development Practices

The following recommendations propose actionable steps for improving APD’s policy development practices. These recommendations are informed by information gathered during Phases II and III of the rewrite process.

Many of these police departments work to embed accountability into their policymaking processes by collecting community input, but only a few departments appear to have regular, codified processes that gather community feedback before drafting begins and at more than one stage of the process.

Recent research developed by academic circles, nonprofits, think tanks, and governmental organizations points to the need for more tailored policymaking processes.[1] Human- or user-centered policymaking is a process that works with end-users to co-design policies.[2] It is a process that combines agile methodologies, human-centered design, and human-centered policymaking.[3] Agile methodologies are iterative, and work is re-evaluated as it is done to ensure that value is continuously created.[4] Human-centered design is a way of working that puts impacted individuals in the center, creating processes that meet people’s needs and experiences.[5] Human-centered policymaking increases accountability and buy-in by creating policies that are relevant to stakeholders.[6]

As it relates to APD’ body-worn and dashboard camera policies, OPO’s community survey data revealed that many community members may not be familiar with APD’s body-worn and dashboard camera programs and policies. Body-worn and dashboard cameras play a vital role in improving transparency related to policing. As a result, APD must work to ensure that community members understand what they are, how they work, and how they’re used by APD officers.

Therefore, OPO also recommends that APD show its dedication to transparency and accessible, community-centered policy development by:

9. Partnering with OPO to develop a transparent and formalized process for soliciting and incorporating community feedback during policy development.

  • This process should standardize and clearly communicate timelines and processes.
  • The process should also give community members an active role in the formulation and development of policies that impact them, ensuring that those individuals who are most impacted are involved in crafting policies from the very beginning and have designated roles at crucial stages of development.
  • Decisions as to which policies should require community input should also be informed by feedback from the public.

10. Working with OPO to build an engagement process that considers different mediums and formats to balance large-scale, community-wide outreach with targeted outreach aimed at those who have lived experience and are most impacted by policing in Austin and the specific policies under review.

  • This may call for combining methods like community-wide surveys, small focus groups, and one-on-one interviews.

11. Devoting human and economic resources to collecting and synthesizing community feedback for policy drafting (i.e., full-time APD staff that is dedicated to overseeing outreach and engagement for the purposes of policy revisions).

12. Publishing a schedule of planned updates to the General Orders at the beginning of each calendar year and updating it as needed.

  • This should be accompanied by instructions that clearly communicate the ways in which community members can provide feedback.
  • Methods for feedback should be accessible to a range of stakeholders and consider things like disability access, language access, and the digital divide.

13. Publishing information about the source of its policies.

  • In practice, this would include information about the cities and/or organizations the language came from, whether any source language came from vendors (or entities that work with vendors), whether the policies were developed with community input, and which internal and external stakeholders worked on the language (e.g., other City departments, consultants, or organizations like the Police Executive Research Forum).

14. Publishing background information to explain the reason for each policy change.

  • OPO recommends posting this information along with a redlined version of the policy language.

15. Publishing and sharing policies in a manner that is accessible to those who have disabilities and communication barriers.

  • In practice, this would involve the use of various mediums to support those who, for example, read second languages or have low vision or blindness, limited literacy, or neurological conditions. Currently, APD publishes its policies, as well as changes to policy, on the APD websiteopen_in_new by posting links to PDF documents. These documents may not be accessible to those who use screen readers, and they are only posted in English.

16. Reconsidering the role that vendors play in the policymaking process.

  • The use of vendors for policy drafting or template language can add an unnecessary level of obscurity to the policymaking process, and it does not appear to be a best practice utilized by peer departments.

17. Meeting with OPO to discuss the recommendations stemming from this project and identify the processes and resources necessary to act on them.

Contact information

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

Contact information

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

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