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.