UTPD launches interactive transparency dashboard, aims to increase community trust

Ali Juell, Senior News Reporter

The University of Texas Police Department added an interactive transparency dashboard to their website with public data, such as employee demographics and incident frequency, in an effort to be as transparent as possible and better inform the community.

Jennifer Laurin, former member of the University’s police oversight committee, said this project assists UTPD in educating the community.

“UTPD has really felt an uptick in external pressure, particularly from parents and also from students about how thoroughly and effectively it’s policing on campus,” law professor Laurin said. “This provides a measure of showing exactly what they’re doing. … It’s not a sufficient condition for accountability, but it’s certainly a necessary one.”

UTPD assistant chief Peter Scheets said the data included in the dashboard was based on conversations with community members and the police oversight committee.

“We figured (we’d) get all (incident) information on the dashboard and show the dates, times, the hours and their location,” Scheets said. “It allows (community members) to be more vigilant and have an understanding about their surroundings. It helps them make educated decisions.”

SafeHorns secretary Tonya Clark said data plays an important role for both parents and students in anticipating possible safety risks and understanding crime trends. 

“The dashboard certainly makes it easier for us to dig in and better understand what’s increasing and where it’s happening on and off campus,” said Clark, parent to a UT sophomore.

Scheets said the dashboard expands on what was previously accessible through the daily crime log, which currently doesn’t contain any information and will continuously expand to fit the needs of the community.

“We always … look at (the data) and go back to the community and say, ‘Are there any changes that you’d like to see?’” Scheets said. “We’ll look at the features that the public comments on in a positive way, and if we can expand those as a resource for the community, we’ll absolutely do that.”

Noah Krivi, president of the student organization Horns for Safety, said many students don’t realize that crime happens around campus beyond just the alerts sent out as UTPD incident reports. By having the dashboard, he said students can track incidents in their area and be more aware.

“As much as I appreciate the interactive dashboard, I do think it needs to be accompanied by some more explanation of what those numbers really mean,” biology junior Krivi said. “Just looking at it at face value, it can be hard to determine what this means for a student.”

The dashboard is not only a step towards transparency, Scheets said, but also a means of showing community members they have access to UTPD for productive conversations on safety.

“I honestly believe that if the police and the community are not working in a partnership, then what you’re doing is not policing,” Scheets said. “If we have the community’s trust, then we can move forward as a department — move forward as a community — and actually make it safer and address concerns.”