On Tuesday, March 21, Policing Project Deputy Director Maria Ponomarenko testified before the New York Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She discussed the need for “front-end” democratic accountability around policing, and discussed the Policing Project’s efforts in this regard. She also emphasized the need to address the line between secrecy and accountability as it applies to policing. Her full testimony can be found here.
Ponomarenko told the Committee:
“When people talk about accountability in policing, they usually are referring to what we call ‘back-end accountability.’ Something has happened, there are concerns or accusations of misconduct, and the goal is to figure out whether something went wrong, and if so, to take action against the individuals responsible.
In the rest of government, however, most accountability to the public is on the front end, not the back end. … Whether at the national, state or local level, executive officials are governed by rules and policies, which we put in place before they act. These rules are transparent—meaning we all are able to find out what they are—and importantly, there is an opportunity for public input before the rules go into effect. …
What distinguishes policing is that we have had very little front-end accountability. There are rules in policing: department rules, or rules set by courts. But there is very little in the way of transparent rules formulated with democratic participation. We think this is a mistake, and that moving policing to a system of front-end accountability would benefit both policing and society a great deal.”