Finding the grey in the blue : transparency and disclosure in teaching
online resourceposted on 17.04.2008, 11:37 by R. Paul Sturges, Louise Cooke
Police services have traditionally valued the ability to work without ongoing public scrutiny of their investigations and operations. They can very reasonably cite the need to avoid alerting criminals to police activities that might result in their arrest and charging with offences, the need to protect police and witness safety, and the frequent need to act swiftly and decisively without obtaining special approval from relevant authorities or endorsement from public opinion. This necessary lack of disclosure concerning many police operations has often extended into a general lack of transparency regarding police activities and expenditures, to the extent that, in many countries, the police services are regarded as unaccountable and unconcerned with how public opinion perceives them. In such a climate, police corruption and arbitrary exercise of police power flourishes. This paper addresses the creation of a policing environment radically different from this through the introduction of transparency into policing in the UK and the consequent revelation of layers of grey documentation and data. The paper makes use of official documentation and case studies of selected British police forces to show how the culture of policing is being changed. The principles of open government, scrutiny, and disclosure with a view to establishing accountability, are in the process of becoming institutionalised in the UK right across government, local government, other ‘public authorities’ and the business and nongovernmental organisation (NGO) sectors. The UK Human Rights Act 1998 sets the context, and a legal framework for this transparency is provided by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and, to some extent, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. The press and civil society are consistently using these mechanisms to call those with political and economic power to account. It has become apparent, even in sectors formerly as concerned with avoiding openness as the police service, that pro-active disclosure is the best way to meet public expectations. Police services now respond as a matter of course to freedom of information requests, organise a range of meetings to provide information and answer questions (from local officers’ meetings with community groups through to major budget consultative meetings with citizens’ panels), and participate in public and semi-public enquiries into aspects of the success or failure of police programmes and operations. The case studies in this paper will explore the opinions of key players in this process and draw attention to the grey information that is becoming available as a consequence.
- Information Science