Police Shooting: A Quest for Transparency Amidst Legal Considerations

In the wake of a tragic event on July 24th where Allentown police officers fatally shot 27-year-old Dominick Hogans, questions have arisen about the transparency and communication practices of the Allentown Police Department (APD). Although officials of the APD have maintained a tight-lipped approach to releasing information about the incident, Joe Welsh, the Founder and Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, has emphasized the importance of transparency in maintaining public trust.

The Duty of Police Transparency

Transparency in the aftermath of police-involved shootings is not just about pacifying the public's concerns. It is rooted in ensuring the foundational principles of democracy are upheld. The APD’s own use-of-force policy stipulates that officers involved in fatal shootings should be placed on administrative leave until they are cleared by both a mental health professional and the Chief of Police1. However, the current ambiguity surrounding the status of the officers involved in the Hogans case raises legitimate questions regarding the enforcement of this policy.

Historical Context and Legal Commentary

The call for transparency in the police’s use of force isn't new. The aftermath of George Floyd’s death in May 2020 significantly amplified these calls2. It prompted many legal scholars to look back at landmark cases, such as Tennessee v. Garner (1985)3, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, under the Fourth Amendment, an officer may not use deadly force to prevent the escape of an unarmed and non-dangerous suspect. The Court noted that the use of deadly force to apprehend such suspects was unreasonable. Legal precedents like these underscore the gravity of using lethal force and highlight the need for comprehensive investigations and transparency thereafter.

However, while transparency is crucial, the legal realm has always recognized the potential need for limited and judicious withholding of information. In some cases, premature disclosure can compromise ongoing investigations, potentially leading to legal challenges or issues of due process. Still, as Welsh aptly notes, withholding basic details such as the status of officers post-incident can seem unjustified, pushing the public to draw its conclusions4.

Data-Driven Transparency: A Potential Solution?

To address concerns about transparency, many police departments have taken data-driven approaches. The New York Police Department’s Force Dashboard provides an excellent example. The dashboard not only offers insights into incidents where force was used against civilians but also showcases incidents where officers were subjected to force5. Such balanced perspectives can provide a comprehensive view of the challenges police face, fostering a nuanced public understanding.

Implementing such dashboards, as suggested by the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, could potentially strike the right balance between the public's right to know and the police's concerns about security and procedural integrity.


While the specifics of the Allentown case are yet to be entirely clear, the overarching narrative underscores the critical balance departments must strike: upholding the principles of transparency, ensuring public trust, and maintaining the integrity of investigations. In today’s data-driven age, perhaps technology holds the key to achieving this equilibrium.


  1. Allentown Police Department's use-of-force policy.
  2. Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, report published in August 2021.
  3. Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985).
  4. Comments by Joe Welsh, founder/executive director of the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, as quoted in LehighValleyNews.com.
  5. Overview of the New York Police Department’s Force Dashboard.


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