Police Accountability: Rounding Up the Usual Suspects
Rounding up the usual suspects may appease some however it is far from a display of a police administration’s efficiency.
The unstated postulate is that the involvement of the general public adds value to administrative decisions, even (or especially) decisions that involve highly technical and complex questions of human health and the cost and reliability of available preventive technologies. The postulate is not intuitively.
Strictly from the point of view of efficiency, Captain Renault’s order to “round up the usual suspects” whenever an anti-Vichy crime had been committed in Casablanca was probably a perfectly reasonable way to begin his investigation. Likewise, administrative decisionmakers could do worse than rounding up the usual interest groups. But they can
also do better. When Captain Renault gave the order to round up the usual suspects after Major Strasser was shot, the usual suspects did not of course include the actual culprit. The point, at the risk of belaboring the analogy, is that the usual suspects are rarely the only suspects and may not be the right suspects.
As agencies seek new, collaborative ways of doing business, whether the purpose is to engage the public in a decisionmaking partnership, or to avoid the rigidity of modem review-and-comment procedures, more likely the later, they must beware of excluding important portions of the affected community.
They must also ensure that the collaborative procedure makes meaningful participation possible, that it is transparent, and that it genuinely involves the participants in making decisions. Citizens advisory boards represent a useful new alternative to the one-way, often adversarial, communication of the reviewand- comment models and to the narrow representation of regulatory negotiation.
Many times, Citizens advisory boards do not meet the needs of every decision, but with careful organization and structuring they can result in better administrative decisions that enjoy widespread public support.”