After every significant encounter with residents, police officers in Warrenton, Va., are required to hand out a QR code on the back of their business card asking for feedback on the interaction, the Washington Post reports. Through a series of questions, citizens can use a star-based system to rate officers on their communication, listening skills and fairness. The responses are anonymous and can be completed any time after the interaction, to encourage people to give honest assessments. The program, called Guardian Score, is supposed to give power to those stopped by police in a relationship that has historically felt one-sided, and to give police departments a tool to evaluate their force on more than arrests and tickets. “If we started to measure how officers are treating community members, we realized we could actually infuse this into the overall evaluation process of individual officers,” said Burke Brownfeld, a founder of Guardian Score and a former police officer in Alexandria, Va. “The definition of doing a good job could change. It would also include: How are your listening skills? How fairly are you treating people based on their perception?”
Particularly since the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, the nation has struggled with the question of how to incentivize fair and ethical law enforcement. Supporters of Guardian Score hope the new program in the rural town can strike a balance — encouraging a type of policing that is both just and keeps communities safe. The program launched its first pilot in November. Questions remain about its impact and whether it could be used in a major city. As of May, Guardian Score was active in just three places with relatively low crime rates: in Warrenton, at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. So far, the number of people stopped who actually fill out the survey is low. In Warrenton, the response rate hovers just above 10 percent. At VCU and Bucknell, it is around 20 percent.