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Ill. PD releases callers’ answers to survey asking about police responses

“Receiving...feedback allows us to leverage our training, policies and procedures, and focus where our community values it the most,” Aurora PD Chief Keith Cross said

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Aurora police said a woman died after being found with gunshot wounds inside a crashed vehicle on the city’s West Side.

John J. Kim /TNS

By R. Christian Smith
Chicago Tribune

AURORA, Ill. — The Aurora Police Department is now publicly releasing the results of the surveys it sends out to those who call for help, department officials recently announced.

Police officials believe this makes it the first police department in the nation to do so.

The surveys, sent via text message after the police have responded to a call, ask how well the responding officer addressed the caller’s issue, what the caller’s general public safety concerns are, the caller’s general sentiments about the Aurora Police Department and more.

In an effort to increase transparency, most of the data collected from those surveys can now be seen in real-time on the city’s website, officials said.

The Aurora Police Department first began sending out post-contact community surveys in 2022, and at the time, was one of only a few police departments in the country to have such a survey, according to Bill Rowley, lieutenant of the Aurora Police Department’s Administrative Services Division.

He said the surveys, which are provided through the My90 platform designed by law enforcement technology company Axon, came after talks between the department’s command staff, city leadership and the mayor’s office about ways to more closely align the department’s own mission and values with the needs and expectations of the community.

In the past, it was difficult for police departments across the country to quantify the success of community-oriented, “quality-of-life” policing duties, so they typically solely relied on traditional metrics of police department success, like tickets issued or arrests made, according to Rowley.

“Historically, that creates a bit of a disconnect from the community,” he said. “You’ve got community members who say, ‘Well, yeah, those things are great, but what we really want is for you to come over and deal with this barking dog in my neighborhood or this neighbor that is belligerent.’”

The data generated from the surveys has been a “game changer” because it allows the Aurora Police Department to understand how it is meeting the community’s public safety wants and needs, according to Rowley.

First, the survey asks how the officer responded to the caller’s issue, he said. Also, it will ask if the responding officer treated the caller with dignity and respect and if they answered any questions the caller had.

While the surveys are anonymous, so the identity of the caller is not linked to the results of the survey, Rowley said the results from this section help to show the Aurora Police Department if it is doing what the people who call and ask for help expect of them.

The survey also allows residents to respond in their own words. If certain officers are mentioned in these free-form responses, command staff can congratulate officers who go above and beyond or assign training to those who need it, Rowley said.

The next section of the survey asks callers what their primary public safety concerns are. Rowley said these responses help direct police efforts to the areas that the community is most concerned about instead of thinking the department knows better than the residents it serves.

“Receiving timely, open and honest community feedback allows us to leverage our training, policies and procedures, and focus where our community values it the most,” Aurora Police Chief Keith Cross said in a news release from the department.

The survey is sent out to nearly everyone who calls in to make a report, according to Rowley. He said that some are excluded, primarily to avoid revictimizing those who called the police as a victim of a particularly serious or traumatic event, like a sexual assault.

Others may also be excluded because they called in a way that prevented their phone numbers from being captured by the department’s system that automatically sends the anonymous survey or because their phone does not support text messages, such as through a landline, he said.

The survey is only available to those who call to report a crime, not to those who are ticketed or arrested by the Aurora Police Department, Rowley said.

Anyone can now view much of the same data that is used internally, excluding sensitive personal information from the free-form questions, by going to aurora-il.org/CommunityPolicing

At time of reporting, the dashboard showed that 87% of people who responded to the survey within the last 30 days said they had a positive view of the Aurora Police Department . Other metrics are also in the high 80s and low 90s.

The two top public safety concerns of survey respondents were traffic offenses and theft. To improve safety, respondents predominately said they wanted increased patrol car visibility and increased community engagement.

Around 10% of the people sent a survey replied to it, according to the dashboard.

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