The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) 2023 conference in San Diego brought together nearly 18,000 people from around the globe to learn and collaborate about the most critical issues in public safety. I had the opportunity to discuss one of these issues alongside Lt. Charles Lara of the San Diego Police Department, Bob Carter of Flock Safety, and Greg Steininger of Ubiquia – the intricate relationship between technology, transparency, and trust.
Evolving with the Times
One unmistakable takeaway from our panel discussions was the evolving nature of community expectations. With the digital age bestowing unprecedented access to information, communities are no longer passive receivers. They are informed, engaged, and demanding transparency and involvement.
This transformation necessitates an adaptive approach from agencies. It's not merely about relaying information but actively involving communities from inception, ensuring projects are co-developed, addressing genuine concerns, and benefiting the larger collective.
The Imperative of Early Engagement
Lt. Charles Lara, with his vast experience in the field, emphasized the undeniable value of engaging communities from the outset. This early and transparent involvement doesn't merely smooth the technological deployment process; it fosters genuine trust and collaboration. It's about understanding the community's pulse, reservations, and aspirations, ensuring any tech introduction is a shared journey.
Zencity's Role in Bridging Feedback Gaps
The essence of community engagement isn't just about numbers; it's about diversity and depth. Traditional community meetings, invaluable as they are, can sometimes miss the broader spectrum of community voices. Recognizing this gap, Zencity took a more expansive approach to San Diego's LPR project.
Reaching out to an eclectic mix of 1,000 residents, we delved into the city's multifaceted sentiments on LPRs. This broader outreach wasn't just quantitative but qualitative. We tapped into varied narratives, addressing concerns and assimilating feedback, ensuring the eventual LPR deployment was not just effective but genuinely representative of the public's priorities and concerns.
Context Matters: Beyond the BinaryTechnology use by public safety agencies is multi-dimensional; its perception hinges on how it might be applied. Our research at Zencity supports this nuanced view. Approximately 80% of participants in our studies were open to License Plate Readers (LPRs) when used in specific scenarios, like tackling violent crimes or finding missing persons. The message is clear: people want to understand the purpose and implications of the technologies introduced into their environment and enjoy the opportunity to provide input at every step along the way – from purchasing to implementation.
The Fine Line: Safety and Privacy
Bob Carter of Flock Safety shared insights that served as a reminder of the intricate balance technology must strike in public safety: In pursuing public safety, personal privacy shouldn't be collateral damage. Carter emphasized the necessity of clear, transparent policies surrounding LPR use, which Zencity deeply agrees with.
The real challenge lies in using technology as a tool of empowerment, ensuring the public remains in control of their privacy. It's about crafting policies that prioritize individual rights, ensuring data collection is judicious and purposeful, thereby nurturing an environment of mutual trust.
As the discussions at IACP 2023 wrapped up, a realization crystalized. The road ahead for public safety isn't merely about integrating advanced technologies. It's about ensuring those technologies seamlessly weave into the community's priorities, meeting real needs and elevating the quality of life and public safety.
While challenges are inevitable, the horizon is ripe with opportunities. With proactive community engagement, open channels of dialogue, and genuine collaborations, the goal isn't just achievable but within grasp. As part of the Zencity team, I am enthusiastic and determined to play our role in this transformative journey, ensuring a harmonious blend of technology and trust.