Equity by Community, with Community, for Community 

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”
      –Margaret J. Wheatley 

It’s been quite a while since I sat down to write a “Chief’s Corner” blog. For years now, I’ve turned to this blog as one of several ways to share information, respond to questions and concerns, or to openly and honestly reflect on relevant issues facing our department and our community. So why the long hiatus? In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, I decided to press pause on most routine UWPD efforts to proactively share information, with few exceptions. Instead, with deepened intention and purpose, UWPD prioritized actively listening to our community and doing our best to be responsive. Of course, listening and responding are not new for this department. That said, never have these relational imperatives been more needed or more challenging. 

Very shortly after the murder of George Floyd, UWPD publicly acknowledged the cumulative weight of our history. We acknowledged the justified pain, anger, frustration, and resentment our community – particularly our Black community – was feeling. We acknowledged the fear and distrust. And we committed to further action. At the heart of community policing is the fundamental belief that police are the public and the public are the police. In practice, this belief demonstrates an understanding that police legitimacy in the eyes of the public is based upon a general consensus of support that stems from transparency and accountability. To this end – in both belief and practice – UWPD launched our Racial Equity Initiative in the summer of 2020. For the past year and a half, through four phases of community engagement and alongside the UWPD Police Advisory Council, we worked to develop the UWPD Equity Dashboard. The dashboard includes key data points to measure the department’s adherence to fair, impartial, and just policing practices and outcomes. 

UWPD, like most police departments across the country, has long gathered and reported various data. Here at UWPD, we regularly release use of force data, complaint data, and other data sets of community interest on our website and through open records requests. So, what’s unique about the Equity Dashboard? Two features make the UWPD Equity Dashboard unique: First, the metrics included in our dashboard are co-defined. That is to say that through the four phases of our Racial Equity Initiative and in concert with the PAC, we asked our community these questions: “What does equitable policing in action look like? How do we define and measure it?” Second, the equity-focused data included in our dashboard is verified through three separate and independent accreditation audits, and provides a powerful tool that allows the user to disaggregate through several filters in order to answer specific questions that point to equitable policing.  

Ready for release toward the end of this month/early December, the UWPD Equity Dashboard is based on feedback received through the listening phase of our Racial Equity Initiative and is the result of months of collaborative work with the PAC. This past August, UWPD’s Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Louis Macias, and I began a process of connecting with various key stakeholder groups to share a draft dashboard prototype and gather feedback on content/functionality in preparation for dashboard finalization and launch. Our intention in undertaking this extensive and collaborative project is twofold: First, we believe the Equity Dashboard will serve as a powerful assessment tool for our community. Turning again to the heart of community policing I mentioned earlier, it’s our hope that the dashboard further demonstrates our commitment to transparency and accountability. Second, and equally important, the process itself provided an ongoing opportunity to engage with members of our community to do the difficult work of further building trust at a time when doing so was extremely challenging, emotionally fraught, and often uncomfortable. To this end, I believe the process yielded better understanding and improved relationships. To all those who participated along the way – too many to list here – I am deeply grateful for your willingness to engage openly, honestly, and constructively.  

I understand that a collection of success measures compiled in a data dashboard won’t in and of itself “fix what’s broken”. There remains much work to do and UWPD is dedicated to ongoing assessment and continuous improvement. I also know that there will be those for whom this concerted effort does nothing to change their belief, understanding, and experience regarding police. Some will remain unmovable, some will take this as an opportunity to point to past grievances, and others will openly criticize. While I am ever hopeful that hearts and minds can be transformed when we work together rather than against one another, I have been on this planet and in this profession long enough to know this is not always possible. Yet, in our desire to be better and to do better than the day before – to continue to “Reach HIGHER” as is our fundamental philosophy here at UWPD – we find our footholds where we can and just keep climbing on. As Chief of this department, I welcome every opportunity to ask and answer the difficult questions in the interest of doing better. For this reason, I am committed to grasping the foothold that is the Equity Dashboard, as a means to reach higher levels of understanding and service. If and where the dashboard points to disparate impact, we will work with our community to explore why and then dedicate ourselves to collaboratively addressing any identified areas of concern.   

In addition to the data section, also included in our Equity Dashboard is information regarding our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, as well as key policies, training, restorative justice practices, and mental health response initiatives. The final section of the dashboard offers ways for our community to get involved, whether through serving as a member of our Police Advisory Council, helping with training, participating in a ride-along, or serving on one of our hiring or promotional interview panels. In the future, we will be adding a community engagement section to facilitate ongoing community surveys/results and other ways we are connecting, listening, and responding to our community. 

We hope you find the UWPD Equity Dashboard useful and that it further demonstrates our commitment to inspiring the trust, partnership, and collaboration needed to ensure community safety and well-being. To learn more about the dashboard, take a look at the short video below.