When it comes to deciding where to raise a family or where to open a small business or accept a job, Arizonans should have the right to make informed decisions based on accurate, consistent and reliable data publicly posted within a reasonable time period. Such transparency to the taxpaying public – our ultimate bosses – stands at the heart of HB2562, legislation supported by Arizona’s firefighters and police officers and meant to give Arizona residents the public safety information they need to make smart decisions about keeping their families safe.
According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, HB2562 will have no financial impact to the state General Fund. And given that virtually every municipality in Arizona already spends time and resources collecting and analyzing public safety, nor should the bill cost local taxpayers money. What does the proposal do? HB2562 standardizes the public safety information already being collected, aligning it with recognized industry standards like those developed by the FBI in its “Uniform Crime Report” and the National Fire Protection Association. The bill then would require municipalities to post a monthly summary of this data on its website within 60 days of the conclusion of each month.
In this way, interested residents, business owners and representatives of companies can get public safety information in real time and more easily compare crime statistics and data points like emergency response times between cities and towns.
What sort of information would be publicly available should the data transparency bill become law? Police departments, cities and towns would be required to post 911 call-to-dispatch response times, dispatch-to-arrival times and total 911 response times. The total number of patrol officers would also be just a click away for taxpayers, as would the total number of arrests for felonies, misdemeanors and violent crimes.
For fire departments and fire districts, the total number of 911 emergency calls would be made available, as would the number of sworn firefighters and paramedics and 911 response times broken down by geography.
Today, such public safety information is released sporadically, if at all, often requiring interested stakeholders and residents to make public information requests to get the data. Once the data arrives, it is typically impossible to make meaningful comparisons across the state, because each city and town collects data in different ways, with no recognized standards in place.
At a time when information can often be skewed – think about the “fake news” that populates your inbox each morning – HB2562 will make public safety information objective and meaningful, and give taxpayers a real-time measure of the return they get on their sizeable public safety investment each year.
Who would oppose such common-sense legislation? Thus far, only the bureaucrats who run certain cities and towns. Only they can answer why they want to stand in the way of such transparency for their residents and the taxpayers who pay the bills. As for the men and women on the frontlines of public safety, all of us doing the responding, arresting the criminals, fighting to save lives, and writing the reports support letting Arizonans know exactly what is happening on their streets and in their neighborhoods.
We believe transparency isn’t just a word. It’s a must for the state of Arizona when it comes to public safety results and the use of your tax dollars.
— Bryan Jeffries is president of the Professional Firefighters of Arizona.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.