Most Americans feel safe in their communities and they credit the men and women of law enforcement with providing that security, according to a report commissioned by Veritone, Inc., developer of AI-powered tools for police.

Veritone's "Transparency and Trust Report" focused on the relationship between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve as well as measuring broader public opinion on policing in the United States.

A key takeaway from the report, which was produced in partnership with research firm Lucid and surveyed 3,000 U.S. citizens, is the central role technology plays in both providing transparency and improving operational efficiency. A turbulent year has increased interest from the public around law enforcement operations and accountability measures. The report provides insights on strategies and opportunities to improve transparency into policing and to improve communications and community operations. Four distinct themes emerged from the data that provide meaningful starting points for LEAs to shine a light on their operations and enhance trust:

Perceptions of Policing are Nuanced and Complex: Four in five Americans feel safe in their own communities, and 3 out of 4 say police help keep them feeling that way. Over the past five years, about as many people report a better opinion of the police as those who say their opinion is worse. The data also reveals an important truth about how perceptions are formed, as 52% of people say their opinions about police are formed by direct interactions with officers.

Improving and Expanding Transparency is Good for All: Forty-two percent of Americans feel a lack of transparency has hurt their perception of law enforcement. This lack of transparency may exacerbate misunderstandings about how police operate. Yet, opinions are mixed on agencies' efforts to increase transparency. For example, while 44% of respondents wanted agencies to increase funding for anti-racism or unconscious bias training, only 22% approve of lawful collection of perceived race and other demographic information to measure for potential bias in law enforcement. Without this data collection, how can we transparently measure the efficacy of the bias training initiatives many want? With better tools and strategies, understanding between agencies and the public can be greatly improved.

Communities Have Strong Opinions About the Role of Police: There has been much talk about “defunding the police,” yet many respondents rated their local police spending as “adequate” (37%), 18% say it’s too high, and 14% say it’s too low. Eighty-four percent say police should focus on responding to violent crime matters, while less than 40% say their local police should assist with medical and mental health calls. Additionally, it’s clear police have a very big impact on public perception: 2 of the top 3 ways citizens access information and news about policing originate with the law enforcement agencies themselves.

Technology will accelerate transparency efforts—The public is generally receptive to the use of technology to improve public safety. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they would trust the police to use facial recognition technology to better identify suspects, and a significant number of respondents also supported the use of body-worn cameras but are unaware of the challenges that can delay the timely release of footage to the public. However, the public may not be aware of the benefits technology can provide behind-the-scenes for some agencies—from distilling insights from massive datasets on criminal activity to software that automatically redacts videos and documents so they can be released more quickly to the public.

One thing that is clear is that there is a disconnect in perception between the media, law enforcement agencies, and the communities they serve, but all can align around the fact that there needs to be a shift in transparency and trust at the heart of those actions. Agencies are widely supported by their communities according to 67% of respondents. The reports also showed that 62% of respondents believe being a local officer has become more difficult over the past five years. The data shows this misalignment can be addressed through better transparency and personal interactions with local communities which have the strongest impact on attitudes and trust.

“We've seen an increase in the number of agencies initially coming to us to deliver on the transparency that technologies such as bodycams promised to deliver. It can take days to process footage from a stop to make it releasable to the public; news cycles move much more quickly, making timely releases critical to combat false narratives,” said Jon Gacek, head of Veritone’s Government, Legal and Compliance practice. “Without AI technology, simply keeping up with transparency requests would exhaust budgets and pull away important resources that could have otherwise gone into investigations, where the vast majority of people want police spending their time."

“Technology is very important, especially now when we're trying to be data-driven and intelligence-driven in policing. With limited resources and the demands on law enforcement growing by the day, we have to allocate wisely,” said Assistant Chief Christopher Bailey of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. “Technology plays an incredibly important role in making people feel safe, solving crimes, and building trust and legitimacy within the community. The more information we can provide at the public’s fingertips, I think the better off we’ll be.”

Read the full report at Veritone.

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