Lawrence should release report



July 10, 2018 - 11:00 PM

Lawrence city commissioners should act quickly to arrange for the public release of a survey conducted last year to assess community perceptions of local police.

After all, a consultant, paid $20,000 to conduct the survey, said she completed the work months ago and provided a final report to the city.

The survey, conducted last summer by Allegro Training and Consulting, asked Lawrence residents to assess their interactions with local police, including appropriate use of force, existence of bias and handling of complaints. Beth Clark, CEO of Allegro, told the Kansas City Star that said she sent her final report to the city in April. “There’s no reason it can’t be put out to the public,” Clark said. “It’s completely done.”

But when the Journal-World last week asked city spokesman Porter Arneill for the survey results, Arneill indicated Clark and the city aren’t on the same page.

“The study information is not yet considered to be a final report from the consultant,” Arneill said. “The city continues working with the consultant to finalize the report and it is anticipated that the report will be presented to the City Commission at a future date.”

The City of Lawrence commissioned Allegro to conduct the survey and compile her report in July 2017. A city memo at the time said Allegro would present summary survey results at a future City Commission meeting and that the summary information “will be readily available in several public formats.”

The anonymous survey asked respondents about themselves — including their race, gender, sexual orientation, income — and about their interactions with the Lawrence police department. The survey included more than 30 questions.

For example, the survey asks whether the police department is biased against certain groups of people, whether complaints made to the police are “taken seriously and acted on quickly,” and what practices need to be in place for the police department to serve and protect Lawrence residents. Practices that residents could select included body cameras, data collection from traffic stops, anti-bias training and tactical training on topics such as responsible use of force.

It isn’t clear why the city is reluctant to make the survey public when the consultant said she gave her final report to the city months ago. The delay in releasing it might foster the perception that the city is not pleased with the report’s results and that it may not want the public to see them. Or the city might have a legitimate issue with how the report was completed. But as long as the city fails to provide a reasonable explanation for the delay, the information void is going to fill with speculation.

The city sought the survey, worked with the consultant on the questions to ask and paid $20,000 in public funds for the resulting report. It’s time to make publicly available not just a summary but also the full original survey and report. The Lawrence City Commission should act with haste to ensure that happens. Anything less will be an affront to transparency and open government.