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  1. #11
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    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: This is Why More Police Department Transparency is Needed

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    And generally very overprotective of their own profession. You know how many doctors who commit malpractice ever have action taken against their medical license? Very, very few. The same is generally true for states in which lawyers are the only ones reviewing the alleged misconduct of lawyers, too, btw. I won’t exempt my own profession from that criticism. It is for that reason in my state that the lawyer disclpline process includes not just lawyers on the panel but members drawn from the general public too. And the Supreme Court publicly releases the written determination of the review panel in every case in which discipline is actually imposed and maintains a freely available web site that the public can search any lawyer and determine what his/her disciplinary record is. I strongly supported those changes. Exposing the profession to public review helps to ensure the integrity of the profession and holds legal profession and the Court accountable for how lawyers are regulated and disciplined.
    Perhaps when there is greater transparency in some of those professions, we might be more amenable to take the chance.

    You can point to a few specific cases where publicity screwed the professional careers of an officer. You can't prevent all instances of that. And in the case of Wilson, it was not the release of personnel documents that did that to him, so you cannot blame rules meant for transparency for that.
    Just imagine if any and all accusations against him had been allowed to be released. He may well have been smeared with false allegations that would have driven the narrative even further as clearly, the FACTS did not matter to the public at large.

    As I stated from the outset, I suspected that cops would defend the protection from release of even the limited information I suggested we ensure gets released: records of those officers who have been determined after their department’s investigation process to have committed misconduct and what discipline was handed out to that officer, and I see that the police officers of this forum have done just as I predicted. I have not advocated for release of ALL information from personnel records, just that related to officer misconduct. I guess that blue line is so tight that good officers would rather protect the bad ones than allow the public to see what happens to those bad officers. The public needs to have a way to see what their public officials do and hold them accountable for the decisions they make, like the decisions to retain on the force officers whom most would say should be fired: those that lie, those who abuse suspects, those who cheat their department out of money, etc. How can the public do that if you hide the information needed to do it?
    We believe in due process and accountability. The IA process has no guarantees of objectivity or freedom from bias. Would you be okay with every allegation against you being made public fodder, whether true or not? based solely upon the subjective evaluation of someone you may not know, or who may not even understand your profession? I suspect not. If so, then you are a better man than I am.

    Lying and cheating - if substantiated - should result in the end of a career. In fact, per Brady, it is the duty of the prosecutor in a criminal case to provide this information to the defense. As such, an officer in such a position has given up his ability to perform his job and should be terminated. Likewise an officer who objectively commits abuse - criminal abuse. The allegation of abuse is as easy as making a phone call or an anonymous letter, call, or email, in many instances.

    A policy violation is not necessarily heinous. If I failed to turn in a missing person report within 2 hours in violation of agency policy, I could be found in violation of policy. Depending upon the agency and the construct of their policy manual, that can be termed as falsifying a report. It has only been in the past few years that agencies throughout the country have moved to improve their policy manuals to reflect standardized language and best practices. Many agencies have such a mish-mosh of policies that the title can be entirely non-reflective of the actions.

    Let me ask you officers this question: how would you propose to give the public the information to hold official accountable if you protect ALL information about a police officer? Do you actually have any workable solutions that would provide useful information, or are you just giving me a knee jerk reaction that release of this information must be a bad thing and the public be damned? The federal government generally does not disclose records of mere allegations of misconduct against its employees but will release records regarding significant acts of proven misconduct; not every detail is released, but the general nature of the misconduct and the action the agency took is typicall available to the public. If the federal government can do that, why can’t state and local governments do that too?
    The problem is the patchwork of laws and policies. There are 50 states' laws and even more individual agency policies including patchwork practices and policies that permit non-sworn review board personnel to evaluate personnel complaints and even release certain information. Investigations that result in criminal prosecution should probably be made public ... others that do not result in criminal allegations, maybe not. An agency that keeps an officer who is subject to Brady is doing themselves no service as this officer is no longer able to perform the job. And any agency that does NOT disclose Brady info to the DA has bigger issues involved and the local prosecutor should probably pursue criminal charges as might be called for in such cases.

    Perhaps a system with enforceable due process protections would be acceptable along with policies that limit the amount of info that can be released. In all honesty, I have not given any real thought to a model policy or practice in this area though I am sure that there is something out there. But, given the extreme level of mistrust or trepidation between staff and their employing government agencies these days, I'd say that the trust necessary to permit law enforcement (at least in CA) to support the proscribed release of individual findings is a long way off. After all, what better way to torpedo an opponent than to release a finding that says he lied or committed some other policy violation ... never mind that he might later be exonerated in court or arbitration, the damage may already be done.

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