Will the Gilroy Police Department’s new feedback feature reach the residents who need it?

Will the Gilroy Police Department’s new feedback feature reach the residents who need it?

The Gilroy Police Department launched new survey software this week that seeks to get feedback about officers’ interactions with the public. GPD officials hope the new surveys will help them to police smarter and more effectively, but some community members aren’t convinced it’s the best approach.

Surveys will be sent after certain service calls, such as when police respond in person. The caller will receive a text message in English and Spanish to the number that they called from, with a link to a short survey that includes questions about their interaction with the department and some demographic information, and provides an opportunity to comment.

A community survey will also be available for community members who are interested in providing general comments about the department.

My90, the company that created the survey software, collects and anonymizes the data, then sends a report back to the department to help identify trends that might point to positive or negative feedback from the community. For now, there is no formal process for taking in survey feedback.

The department opted to purchase the software as part of a 10-year, $3.7 million contract that included tasers, body and car cameras, software and data storage from Axon, the company which owns My90 and provides equipment, training and software to police departments.

“We are excited to be supporting the Gilroy Police Department’s mission to serve the public with smart, modern, and compassionate policing,” said Kona Shen, general manager of My90 and vice president of Axon, in a press release. “We know that this type of feedback can build trust, strengthen relationships, and improve safety and we admire the Gilroy Police Department’s commitment to using this feedback to serve their community.”

GPD spokesperson Lamonte Toney said the department is “really excited to have people start providing feedback and to learn about what we’re doing well and if there’s anything that people can improve on.”

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However, there appears to be at least one bug that still needs to be worked out with Gilroy’s new software. Specifically, the survey language should automatically change to Spanish if that is the default language on the device. However, when the general survey was taken by a Mercury News reporter with a phone set in Spanish, the survey appeared in English.

There are larger problems as well, according to Marty Estrada, who works with low-income and Latino communities in Gilroy as part of the Community Agency for Resources, Advocacy and Services. The My90 software will be inaccessible to many of the people he serves, Estrada said, because many low-income, Latino, and elderly residents of Gilroy have limited technological literacy. In-person outreach, he said, is a far more effective tool for reaching these communities.

At the same time, said Estrada, these communities interact with police officers at a higher rate, meaning that if their voices are not included, information from the surveys will be incomplete.

“The community feedback process needs to be broadened, and they have to do really good outreach, and that’s what I don’t see in this,” he said.

The community survey is available now at qrcodes.pro/HZePdb.