Hilliard Headlines: Police can build trust through transparency

Robert Fisher
Guest columnist

For many, 2020 has not been the year we expected.

The challenges associated with a global pandemic and a contentious political season have led to a divisive climate as we near the end of the year.

Hilliard Division of Police Chief Robert Fisher

It’s also been a tumultuous year for those working in law enforcement.

Recently, considerable attention has been paid to law-enforcement practices, especially in the area of arrests, use of force, factors associated with officers' decision-making and transparency.

Consider this definition of transparency, which I recently read:

“Transparency is the ability to trust that you have blind spots and allow for their exposure so that the evolution of reliability can occur over time.”

Transparency has not been a new focus for our agency this year. It’s a huge part of who we are and have been for some time. We invest significant time in relationship-building with all parts of our community because we know solutions start with mutual understanding and trust.

Some members of the public have expressed their concerns in pointed questions this year:

Is force used regularly or rarely by law enforcement?

Is it used unnecessarily or only with good cause?

Is force applied uniformly, or is it used more freely on particular segments of society?

Are police use-of-force incidents isolated or widespread?

As we answered these questions and explored the best methods to continue building community trust through transparency, we recommitted ourselves to constantly evaluating our actions and reporting them to you.

The “Annual Reports” section on our website, hilliardohio.gov, was enhanced and appropriately renamed “Transparency in Policing.” On this page, we have posted our policies and yearly analyses on use of force, bias-free policing, vehicle pursuits and anti-retaliation.

We also have added our personnel-complaint policy and referral form and created a user-friendly police feedback form on which we accept both compliments and complaints for Hilliard personnel.

Our training program remains robust.

Each year, our officers practice scenarios designed to defuse potentially violent events and continually reinforce our fundamental expectation of bias-free policing. De-escalation techniques and crisis mitigation are a regular part of the training plan. This applies to everyone that our organization would work with, regardless of race or any other characteristic. 

The effectiveness of a law-enforcement agency and its officers depends enormously on the relationship the agency has forged with the community it serves.

We are grateful for the relationships we have built and maintained with businesses, civic organizations and schools. It’s why I accepted the invitation to join the Hilliard City Schools Inclusivity and Justice Task Force.

Trust and transparency between law-enforcement agencies and the people they serve is vital to community stability, officer safety and effective policing. We can become a better nation and a better community if everyone is dedicated to embracing the idea that change starts with understanding.

We’re listening now more than ever. Let’s continue to work together to ensure every voice is heard and that Hilliard remains a safe community that everyone can call home.

Robert Fisher is chief of the Hilliard Division of Police.