Policing the Cops

Policing the Cops – Time for a Police Complaint
Database

The number of law enforcement personnel who have been convicted
of crimes has grown five-fold since the 1990s. Police brutality, in
particular, has become a household phrase. But as citizens
increasingly worry about protecting themselves from the very people
who are supposed to be protecting them, they are at a loss for
constructive ways to do so. The major block? Citizens have no way
to access complaints against police officers, Joe Loya reports in
Pacific News Service, so they remain fairly
uninformed.

Communities nationwide have begun to speak up, creating civilian
review boards to investigate complaints against police behavior.
But these boards have proven generally ineffective. A better
solution, Loya argues, would be the creation of a comprehensive
public database that logs citizen complaints against police
officers. Such a database could identify patterns of violence by
law enforcement officials and draw attention to ‘problem
officers.’

Police departments claim they do their own investigations, and that
information gathered on police officer’s records by outside sources
could be abused. They also content that unproven allegations could
soil the integrity of officers. Yet police enforcement often puts
public safety ahead of privacy rights when making drug busts based
on hearsay, and have shown little concern about inaccuracies on
Megan’s Law lists.

Until police departments find better ways to curb the violence of
their officers, many citizens would feel better being informed of
the records of their local officials. When law enforcement groups
know they are being held accountable by the public they serve, they
might be more careful.
–Rebecca Wienbar
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