Elgin police set up new transparency website
A new transparency website that the Elgin Police Department calls a "one-stop shop for information" will debut to the public today. The site, www.cityofelgin.org/epdtransparency, brings current crime information, such as shots fired incidents, breaking and entering and burglary calls, and sex offender data, to the public and pools together other information that previously would be found at various city and police department webpages.
The project was spearheaded by Chief Ana Lalley and Public Information & Community Outreach Manager Kristie Hilton, who said they wanted to provide a simple place for people get information about the department.
The goal, Lalley said, was to "make it easy, make it accessible, make it visual."
"After our officer-involved shooting in March of 2018, we really thought 'what are the things we need to do to increase our transparency, to increase our communication with the public and work on some of the things that people are concerned about,'" Lalley said.
She and Hilton started talking about the transparency site a year ago, but began work in earnest in August 2020. They had hoped to debut it in the fall, but experienced a few technical setbacks along the way. "It's been killing me, every time we had a delay," Hilton said.
Lalley said the site is part of a larger undertaking to be as transparent as possible, in addition to other efforts such as community advisory boards, sending data for the Center for Policing Equity and holding community conversations.
"We have a great relationship with our community and part of that is because we're not afraid to put ourselves out there," she said. "We're not afraid to be criticized, we're not afraid to have some of these hard conversations and then really listen to what people are saying."
"We embrace it, and this (website) is part of that kind of philosophy," she added.
The website includes a dashboard at the top with a running year-to-date total of dispatched calls for service updated every 15 minutes, in addition to use of force incidents and employee complaints.
Below that are links to data resources including crime and show of force data, community policing information to help find beat, neighborhood and school resource officers, and a link to performance complaints, where viewers can see current complaint information or find links to file one.
The site includes a 13-plus minute video that walks viewers through what the website has to offer and how to navigate it.
It also highlights employee recognition, recruiting efforts and information on demographics within the department.
Lalley said she pushed to include the employee recognition section -- "Transparency to me is also talking about the good things that we do here," she said.
"There are things that happen, like the officer that got arrested for DUI," she said. "It happens and we put it out there to the public, but there are also good things that happen too."
Lalley and Hilton said the site is an ongoing project that will develop as they receive feedback from the community.
"This is a living project," Lalley said. "People may go in and look at it and say this is too hard to find or maybe you want to add that. That to me is transparency."