Transparency integral for public institutions



By the editorial board

We do not have the opportunity to have distrust in American public institutions. Our tax dollars are, without our consent, given to these entities, making them servants who should respond and be open to those who supply their funding. 

However, it is becoming more and more apparent that those whose existence depends on our support do not feel the need to allow the public to view the inner workings of their institutions. 

Police departments from across the country have come under scrutiny in recent years due to the lack of transparency they have within the institution. In too many of these cases of police brutality that have been in the national spotlight, the body cameras that are attached to the officers gear have been turned off or not functioning.

18-year-old Paul O’Neal was fatally shot by Chicago Police Department officers July 28 after reportedly crashing a stolen car into two police vehicles, and wouldn’t you know, one of the officers who fired shots at O’Neal’s body camera was turned off during the shots. It was turned on after the shooting.

In response to the discrepancy with the body cameras, which the officers were given one week before the shooting, Superintendent Eddie Johnson allowed the mishap to be explained by a simple lack of training.

“They had those cameras maybe about a week… There’s going to be a learning curve,” Johnson said.

It is unreal to allow this excuse to hold any weight. If officers are given technology, the officers should be thoroughly trained in using the technology, especially when it can be used to provide transparency in their practices, which are already under question by the public. 

In a similar occurrence, 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by a plain-clothed officer on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police force. As protests began to sweep the city, with protestors calling for the release of footage obtained by the officers, Police Chief Kerr Putney showed no urge to heed these requests.

When asked about transparency in the case, Putney said, “Transparency is in the eye of the beholder.” 

“There’s your truth, my truth, and the truth… Some people have already made up their minds,” said Putney.

This coming from a police chief, following the slaying of an unarmed man by an officer in plain clothes, is despicable. 

Denying transparency is not a trait unique to only police departments. UK has also had problems with giving the public what they are entitled to.

When the Kernel requested documents pertaining to UK’s investigation into sexual assault and harassment allegations from students against former associate professor James Harwood, the university refused to turn over the invetigation, redacted or not. 

This is comparable to Putney not providing “full transparency” to the public. 

UK is a public university, funded by taxpayer dollars, and needs to treat those whom it depends on like the stakeholders they are. Even though we do not have the option to end our support, the university should still treat the public as their most important critics. To deny releasing public information is to show that the public does not matter.

Transparency is key in building trust, and trust is key in building strong relationships. Full transparency from public institutions is rare, and this is a trend that must be changed.  

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