Mimesis Law
19 April 2021

Creating A Police Misconduct Registry

January 13, 2017 (Fault Lines) — A proposal recently popped up concerning the creation of a police misconduct registry. Let’s get right to the point: this is an incredible idea and must happen immediately.

Don’t laugh. This is a perfectly sensible idea, and a great evidence-based way to bring accountability for law enforcement officers more interested in abusing their badges than serving the public. And look at all the good other registries do!

America has registries designed to protect the public from sex offenders. There’s registries informing law-abiding citizens of potential child abusers. Our society even has registries for people who prioritize loving their neighbor’s dog over loving the neighbor. It’s simply amazing why no one’s implemented a police misconduct registry yet.

Perhaps it’s the hassle of creating a set of rules for this proposed registry. Once again, Fault Lines comes to the rescue. Creating a police misconduct registry just requires a little bit of time and energy from the community, and a willingness to seek justice.

Start by the creation of a Police Misconduct Registry Council, or PMRC. This has to be an interdisciplinary task force comprised of community members. The council will include a member of the criminal defense bar, a member of the local police union, at least one social worker, and a randomly selected clerk from the 7-11. It’s the perfect cross-section of interested parties!

Once an incident of alleged police misconduct occurs, the PMRC will have seventy two-hours to make a determination as to whether evidence from the incident (dash cam and body cam footage, statements, etc.) might constitute an incident of police misconduct. Since we’re dealing with standards, the burden of proof on this tribunal will be preponderance of the evidence. If it works for academia, it can work for the community.

If the panel determines by a preponderance of the evidence standard police misconduct might have occurred, the offending officer will receive a letter notifying her that she’s been “indicated” for potential police misconduct. The letter shall be mailed to the officer’s place of residence and prominently posted at their precinct (to be sure there’s notice, as due process matters!) and state the nature and type of “indication” (beating, shooting, tasing, strangulation, digital/anal, oral/wherever).

The indication letter will inform the officer he or she has fourteen days from the date of the letter to ask for a file review. If the officer fails to request a file review, their name, badge number, and department will go on a national registry of officers who are indicated, together with those who actually were found guilty of misconduct by a court. Let’s keep the registry nice and tidy and lump all the misconduct in!

If the officer requests a file review, a member of the initial panel will review the initial evidence, any additional statements or evidence the offending officer wishes to provide, and consider the panel’s findings. If the reviewer reaches the same conclusion, the file is marked “Substantiated” and returned to the registry. “Unsubstantiated” files will be held in a confidential location, and the officer’s name will be concealed by use of “strikeout.”
“Substantiated” officers will have the chance at an administrative hearing, featuring a three panel makeup of an Administrative Law judge, a social worker, and a 7-11 clerk. An appointed member of the local criminal defense bar will argue for the Registry, making the case on clear and convincing standards why each finding of the panel should be “Conclusive.” The officer may choose to hire private counsel at their discretion. We must save taxpayer dollars. No union lawyers!

If you’re concerned about any indication information getting into the hands of a judge or jury, don’t worry. Indication on the registry only constitutes reliable hearsay should a party bring it before a trier of fact. It’s not actual evidence suggesting whether actual violations of the law occurred unless the trier of fact feels it passes evidentiary muster.

This is the best solution we could possibly expect for holding police accountable if judges or juries continually fail the public. It provides for a clear method of any accused of potential wrongdoing to clear their names. The public has a say in the outcome. And really guilty parties will have their information on the world wide web, available to anyone with an internet connection.

One more registry is the best method possible of addressing the police misconduct problem. Only at Fault Lines will you find the ideal method of implementing this crucial program. You’re welcome, America. It’s the right thing to do.

11 Comments on this post.

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  • David Meyer-Lindenberg
    13 January 2017 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Chris, this is the evilest thing you’ve ever written and then some. You deserve recognition for this. Like a squat, horned little statue, made of basalt.

    • CLS
      13 January 2017 at 3:46 pm - Reply

      I’ve told people I’m a devil for some time. Maybe this will finally convince people I’m not joking.

      All tributes may be mailed to One Dante Square, Ninth Circle, Hell, 66666.

  • Joseph
    13 January 2017 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    This is some sort of entertaining parody, but two questions:

    – Is it always the case that defense attorneys are aware of the disciplinary records of police officers they may be called on to cross-examine, either due to ordinary research or Brady disclosure?

    – Assuming that for some reason this policy were to be (inexplicably) implemented as is, would mentioning that an officer had been placed on this third-party registry as a registered liar, as determined by three arbitrary people, be admissible evidence in questioning the truthfulness of the witness?

    • CLS
      13 January 2017 at 3:49 pm - Reply

      I take it you’re a new reader given your questions. Welcome! We actually have a mailing list where you can get all the good stuff we post weekly delivered straight to your inbox. No ads, no spam, just 100% goodness. Go to the main page and sign up!

  • Brian Cowles
    13 January 2017 at 2:38 pm - Reply
    • CLS
      13 January 2017 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      It’s not my fault you didn’t have the time to come up with the best possible policy for combating police misconduct.
      That’s okay. I’m still here for you.

  • Alex
    13 January 2017 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    As officers sometimes move around between jurisdictions and employers, shouldn’t we require officers on the list, on pain of felony, be required to notify the maintainers of the list of their current employer on a yearly basis. That way we can ensure that the list stays up to date.

    • CLS
      15 January 2017 at 1:40 pm - Reply

      This sounds excellent. We’ll implement this new suggestion. We’ll even allow for a redaction after ten years on petition of the registrant and no more indications for misconduct.

  • dwight hines
    13 January 2017 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    A Police Misconduct Registry is an excellent idea and I’m stunned that the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have not done this, especially after I wrote them and suggested it months ago. This is a good idea also because police write reports and the reports are on standard forms, varying by jurisdiction, that will allow established analytic methods to be applied to the structured and unstructured parts of the reports. Given what we know about human beings, I predict that valid reporting systems will tell us as much about the police officer completing the form as the incident being reported. In the absence of quality management, or under weak management, trends will reveal themselves prior to unacceptable physical violence or bullying.

    So, many of the officers who get off the right path, the path they are trained to help others to find, will give cues in their reports that will allow management to take meaningful preventive steps. Thereby, the officer will be returned to duty, stronger and wiser than before.

    Alternatively, we can just wait for the expected arrival of Ms. Truly Watson, the wife of IBM’s Watson that slaughtered the humans on Jeopardy. And Ms. Watson will not only have quick access to verifiable facts but will perform real-time truth detection with officers before they write their report or testify under oath. Hey, all technology up to now has not been as disruptive as Watson’s wives and daughters will be. See AVATAR or ASK Kiosks for Deception Detection, and many other systems that can be used without touching the person being questioned, or remotely scanned.

    Dwight Hines

  • JJ
    14 January 2017 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Well gee I sure hope the council makes its finding by majority vote and not unanimous vote, because otherwise with the local police union member being on the council I’m sure even breaking into an orphanage at night and shooting a few sleeping toddlers in the back of the head wouldn’t qualify as misconduct as long as the officer invoked the magic words ‘I feared for my life.’

  • dwight hines
    18 January 2017 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    It is only proper that along with the Registry of Misconduct we need to include a parallel Registry for those who have shown they have the Right Stuff. The Right Stuff Registry will dwarf the Misconduct Registry in number and in richness of narrative. But we need to have it.

    Now, for the Misconduct Registry, shouldn’t it have two sections: Criminal and Civil? And shouldn’t the Misconduct Registry include all Officers of the Court, like Attorneys, Paralegals, Court Clerks, Judges, and those who testify as expert witnesses?

    2) People are still dealing with thousands of cases where a deranged Massachusetts State chemist falsified drug tests (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Dookhan). What do you bet that her insanity developed in small steps and there were times between the first misstep and the 53rd misstep where an intervention might have saved her and thousands of others from real pain? We need some leading indicators of self-destructive acts.

    3) The National Consensus Policy on Use of Force is out. It will likely help but where are the guidelines from the 1960s that suggested many ways for a Police Officer or Trooper to stop the anger escalator when arriving at a conflict scene?

    So, when the male shows he’s on the ugly escalator by the increasing volume of his screeching, asking him for some matches can change the tone and atmosphere, and make off-topic conversation possible.. We need suggestions that work long before force becomes an option. Yet, I’ve sat in court in a fed case where an officer was charged with killing a intoxicated young man who tried to run over the officer. I sat thru another fed case against an officer who killed a young woman who was listening to voices and trying to kill parking lot pedestrians with her van. Both cases had some video coverage and testimony by reconstruction experts on what happened. In both cases, there was no doubt in my mind that the evidence showed the officers should have shot sooner. Both juries agreed with me. Ramble, ramble.

    Finally, depending on the misconduct, ten years or 5 years, will be too long. Time on the list should be decided by the council or a judge.

    Dwight Hines