Following criticism, city decides to post results of community survey on interactions with Lawrence police
photo by: Journal-World photo illustration
The results of a community survey on Lawrence police relations will soon be posted publicly after some criticized the city for a delay in releasing the data.
At the Lawrence City Commission meeting Tuesday, City Manager Tom Markus told commissioners that the city would post the report from the consultants hired to conduct the survey. He said the city had not previously released the report because city staff still considered it to be a draft.
Markus said he is not making excuses for the decision that he made, and that he recognized the concerns about transparency.
“Transparency is a huge issue, and it’s a very huge issue in what are described as marginalized communities,” Markus said. “And I think sometimes you have to trust your judgment, and I am going to release the report that is considered a draft by the management of this city and put it out on the website so that the public can see it.”
Markus added that there might be changes made to report from its draft form to the final form, and he wanted the public to be able to see those changes. He said he will also post a copy of the city’s contract with the consultant, Allegro Training & Consulting. He said the report and the contract would likely be posted on the city’s website by the end of the week.
It has been 10 months since the survey was completed, and the city previously denied the Journal-World’s request to obtain a copy of the survey results or any related report on the grounds that the report was still being finalized. That’s despite a report in the Kansas City Star that the consultants sent the survey results and a final version of their report to the city more than two months ago. The consultant did not previously return a voicemail from the Journal-World.
Previously in the meeting, Lawrence resident Pantaleon Florez criticized the city’s use of an exception in the Kansas Open Records Act, which allows public agencies to not to disclose data that is “in the process of analysis.” Florez said he thought that the city’s reasons for not releasing the report were excuses and that they hurt the city’s relationship with marginalized communities that have had negative encounters with police.
“What is clear here is that not releasing these results contributes to further, damaging distrust,” Florez said.
The City of Lawrence commissioned Allegro to conduct the survey and related report in July 2017. At that time, a city memo stated that 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 Lawrence residents to assess their interactions with local police and included questions about use of force, existence of bias and handling of complaints. The survey also asked respondents about themselves — including their race, gender, sexual orientation, income and other characteristics — and about their interactions with the Lawrence Police Department.
In explaining the issue to the commission, Markus said the current report may be final in consultant’s terminology, but that he chose to go back through the report and the contract to make sure the consultants completed what was laid out. He said there are some things that he thinks “are in variance” from the contract to the report, and that he directed the police chief to assemble a team to go through the contract and the document that was presented to make sure that all the deliverables were met.
Markus said once the report and contract are posted to the city’s website, that will not be the end of it. He said the city is going to meet with the consultant in August and hopefully go through the city’s questions and concerns. He said the issue will be brought before the City Commission in the first part of September.