We identified six basic features necessary for true transparency:


1). The policy manual is hosted on the official police department website or city government website.

Accessing the manual through an official, direct source—as opposed to a secondary source, like a news outlet’s FOIA request—assures the public the information is legitimate, accurate and up to date.


2). The manual is posted in its entirety.

If whole policies or even sections have been omitted, it creates the impression something is being hidden, and limits public knowledge of police policies. If information must be withheld for good reason, redaction should be used sparingly.


3). It is possible to search across the entire manual.

The online manual must include a function that allows users to search for keywords (i.e. “use of force” or “canine”) across multiple policies, simultaneously. Otherwise, it can be impossible to find all the relevant information.


4). The manual has a clear navigational framework.

Clear and consistent navigation serves two very important purposes: it gives an overview of the manual's contents and allows the reader to go directly to a specific section of interest, both of which improve clarity and ease of use. A hyperlinked table of contents is a common example of such a framework.


5). All policies are dated, especially as to their most recent revision.

This tells the public it has the most recent version. Not every policy needs updating, but very old policies may indicate a need for review.


6. The manual text is machine-encoded.

Machine-encoded text is essential for screen-readers and web-browser translation services (such as Google Translate) to function. This basic feature improves access for all members of the public, regardless of English-language ability or visual impairment.