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Police misconduct: Search discipline records for thousands of cops (usatoday.com)
336 points by dsleno 49 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments



There are two things that must happen before any movement will occur on this front. Bringing the abuses to even more exposure can help both occur.

1) Reign in qualified immunity for both law enforcement, prosecutors, and politicians.

2) End the influence of the Police and Sheriff public employee unions over politicians. People carp constantly about corporate influence don't understand the level the public sector employee unions have; go look at California's prison and even education problems for a refresher.


> End the influence of the Police and Sheriff public employee unions over politicians. People carp constantly about corporate influence don't understand the level the public sector employee unions have

¿Por que no los dos?

There's no conflict between wanting to see corporate influence diminished and disgust for the Fraternal Order of Police and their appalling role in keeping officers from being held accountable.

> go look at California's prison and even education problems for a refresher.

The abuses of for-profit prisons in California and elsewhere are a perfect example of the consequences of excessive corporate influence in our political system.


Scope creep - (1) doesn't need to include "prosecutors and policians", those can come later. In fact, keeping immunity up for those two for the first decade or two means they're in a much safer position to call out the police force without having to fear legal reprisal over having (inadvertantly, or intentionally) collaborated with them.

Dismantle it in stages, because trying to do it all on one go is a recipe for failure.


That's a very interesting take. I feel like they're all very urgent to tackle.

People are losing faith in the political system and I fear they are also losing faith in the judicial system.

Do you think the people would be OK with more oversight on the lower level of the executive branch, but none on the legislative or the judicial branches nor on the top level of the executive branch (the president, in the US of A and in at least a few other countries) ?

Also, it's worth noting that laws are usually not retroactive, AFAIK, meaning that if you commit what would be a crime under a new law before that law was passed, you can't be prosecuted.


When "everything is urgent", you're setting yourself up for failure, because you won't have the resources to address all issues at the same time. Pick one battle, and win it. Then reprioritize.

People have already lost faith in both, quite a long time ago in fact. So start fixing things by solving the problem one step at a time, big enough for people to notice and gain hope for future development, and small enough that you can fail without drastically affecting the overall change.


I really have to give it to USA Today, the amount of effort/work to create this is immense.

My worry is around maintaining and so perhaps there's a 'github'-like tool/platform that they could use to ensure the data is updated.

Perhaps folks could suggest a scale'able solution that wouldn't break the bank towards the responsible upkeep this would entail.


I agree 100%. Kudos to the team at USA Today for compiling it.

This dataset[1] has been frequently asked about on the open data stack exchange site[2], with no real authoritative answer until now.

[1] https://gofile.io/?c=bEbPGv

[2] https://opendata.stackexchange.com/q/4566/1511


Interesting point.

A few years ago, ProPublica designed an updated way to "Investigate Doctors". They built a chart that explains the nuances of the disciplinary history available, how to contact boards, and the disciplinary actions taken by each state. If interested, it's available here: https://projects.propublica.org/graphics/investigating-docto....

Something like this may be useful for USA Today or any folks who, as you say, may want to scale this up.


I made a complaint on an officer once and the next day his supervisor (who is Chief of Police now) called me up and said,

"... are you suuure you want to go through with this? Because if we investigate and can't prove any wrong-doing, we will charge you with filing a false complaint!"

Now, I didn't back down and got a letter from them saying, "we investigated and, although we are not going to tell you the outcome for privacy reasons if there was anything we would have given the appropriate punishment," or something along those lines.

I think that a civilian-oversight board (and I am fine with making them have security clearances) that can look into these once a year to make recommendations to the City Commission is not too much to ask for considering this is paid for with tax money and currently has little to no oversight.


>I made a complaint on an officer once and the next day his supervisor (who is Chief of Police now) called me up and said, "... are you suuure you want to go through with this? Because if we investigate and can't prove any wrong-doing, we will charge you with filing a false complaint!"

I'd ask him to send me that in writing so I can prep my attorney.


Great in theory, but sounds like a good way to be targeted by the police.


Their response does not make sense: [the police's] absence of evidence [for your complaint] does not constitute evidence of absence [of what you claim happened], so this absence of evidence does not form a basis for charging you with a false complaint (unless they find actual evidence that whatever your complaint claimed did not happen)


This is important. The number of times I've seen people in authority lie to justify their behavior is too damn high.


Is programmatic access available to the database?

EDIT: Actually, if you do a search without providing input, it will apparently return the entire dataset and a download button will appear at the top right. Total csv size is 3.8 MB.


Hmm.

I was hoping for an aggregate view on why cops were dismissed. They didn't seem to try to index the reasons. This just lets you search for names/towns, which then links to a spreadsheet that contains the reason someone was decertified.

So it seems like the main purpose of this would be for avoiding the other situation they have there: a crook/felon becoming police chief[1]. But I'm concerned that this is yet another example of how technology is making it impossible to move on from one's past. Many of them are drug use, or small crimes, "Unprofessional relationship", etc.

On one hand, it's great this can be researched to avoid a bad hire like above, but I guess I also feel sorry for Joe or Jane Cop who was dismissed from the job for using cocaine or shoplifting and now it's easily searchable 25 years later for everyone in the world[2]. Is avoiding the former situation worth the latter?

[1] - https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/2019/0...

[2] - Not specific to cops, but this is literally how mug shot websites make their money. "Pay us to remove your mugshot on our site".


> On one hand, it's great this can be researched to avoid a bad hire like above, but I guess I also feel sorry for Joe or Jane Cop who was dismissed from the job for using cocaine or shoplifting and now it's easily searchable 25 years later for everyone in the world[2]. Is avoiding the former situation worth the latter?

Yes of course


Odd that a website like this isn't maintained by the government itself.


Not really odd if you know about the power of the police unions.


So now to cross-check who’s now working in another state.


Yes, would love to see much more analysis on this data state by state. Which states have the lowest rates of police misconduct? And is it an indicator of better training and accountability, or more corruption with practices that sweep misconduct under the rug?


Reminds me of the great film Spotlight when the reporters start cross-referencing records to find out where accused priests had been moved or placed on leave.


Not all of these would today still be considered "misconduct" however. Some officers are decertified because of sodomy.


Sodomy is a fancy term for homosexuality at times. One could be charged with sodomy for having gay sex when it was illegal. Which wasn’t all that long ago in Canada


If that occurred while they were on duty it'd be misconduct.


i have not heard of that being a cause for decertification before, do you have any more details?


I didn't see mention of why the other 6 states are not available in the data?


Or which 6 don't have data? Would be nice if they were listed with a little more info, otherwise looks like we need to figure out which 6 are missing from the select options.


California, for one.


Hawai'i is another one I noticed


Instead of the article I get:

"A MESSAGE FROM USA TODAY NETWORK It appears that you’re visiting us from a location in the European Union. We are directing you to our EU Experience.

This site does not collect personally identifiable information or persistent identifiers from, deliver a personalized experience to, or otherwise track or monitor persons reasonably identified as visiting our Site from the European Union. We do identify EU internet protocol (IP) addresses for the purpose of determining whether to direct you to USA TODAY NETWORK’s EU Experience.

This site provides news and information of USA TODAY NETWORK. We hope you enjoy the site. "

I am not in the EU and I am not using an EU ip address.

So I guess you can't find out about police misconduct unless you are trackable...


I get the same treatment (and I am also not in the EU), but I have to say: apart from this specific link not working, their "European Union Experience" seems so much more uncluttered than all the other news sites out there!

It seems to be just news articles without all the bullshit. (It redirected me to https://eu.usatoday.com/, so maybe U.S. viewers can also experience it.)

It's even better than lite.cnn.io and thin.npr.org, because it is not all text but also has some pictures to the articles, which I want to see.


I imagine they get a pretty low amount of EU traffic, and so went for the least effort path to deal with GDPR. And, yeah, IP location databases are often wrong. Or maybe they just treat "non US IP" as "redirect to sparse GDPR site".

It is an odd publication. They have some sort of deal with many US hotels where guests get a paper copy for free. I suspect that represents the overwhelming share of anyone that reads it. It's commonly thought of as low quality here.

Archived copy: https://outline.com/FdzvqY

Their database as a csv: https://gofile.io/?c=bEbPGv



>I imagine they get a pretty low amount of EU traffic, and so went for the least effort path to deal with GDPR.

But they haven't actually dealt with it. This is a common misunderstanding among websites that do this.

EU citizens are not required to identify themselves to you preemptively for GDPR to apply. If I connect to their website via a US VPN and they start tracking me without asking my consent assuming I'm from the US, that's a violation of GDPR.

So, in reality, there are two cases here:

1. They do not operate under EU jurisdiction, and thus might as well not have bothered making the EU specific page since the EU has no leverage over them any more than china can force them to take down articles that paint the chinese government in a negative light.

2. They do operate under EU jurisdiction, in which case their EU specific website is not in and of itself enough to handle their GDPR liability. Regardless on your opinion on VPNs, they must still for example nominate a specific data protection officer if they fall under EU jurisdiction.

I suspect that at least some of the websites with EU specific experiences know that the EU experience legally speaking doesn't achieve anything and are attempting to use them as a protest movement disguised as a self-righteous compliance effort. A whole bunch of other websites then didn't do their homework and are blindly hopping on the bandwagon.

The funny thing is the whole thing is backfiring, since a common reaction is "the EU experience is really nice I wish it was like this for americans as well".


Article 37 says that a DPO is needed if the controller and processor (a) is a public authority or body (except for courts), (b) their core activities require regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale, or (c) their core activities include processing on a large scale of special categories of data from Article 9 or data related to criminal convictions and offences referred to in Article 10.

It sounds like their EU site would not fall under any of those.

Their US site might, but their US site seems like it would be out of scope for GDPR according to Article 3, because it is not offering goods or services to data subjects in the Union.


In fairness, you're probably right about them not requiring a DPO. I thought that was required for any organization over a certain size, but it seems it's required for any sized organization that tracks people with a certain amount of enthusiasm. A court would have to determine if they meet that criteria, I guess.

However, with response to this:

>but their US site seems like it would be out of scope for GDPR according to Article 3, because it is not offering goods or services to data subjects in the Union.

You're referring to Article 3.a. The argument on whether the US site is offering services to EU citizens if it does not take active steps to forbid VPNs or place "are you currently in the EU?" gates in place is something only a court could rule on.

However, more importantly, you're skipping over 3.b.

>the monitoring of their behaviour as far as their behaviour takes place within the Union.

That's unquestionably happening for anyone in the EU that uses a VPN to connect to their US website. Hence, their GDPR obligation is not discharged if they are under EU jurisdiction.

The GDPR does not lay out a set of ways to handle EU citizen data. If you ctrl-f search "citizen" in the GDPR document[1] you'll get no hits. It lays out the way /companies are expected to handle personal data/. Americans may not realise this, but they have the right under EU law to file GDPR requests against EU companies. They may even be able to file them against American companies, although which companies are or are not in scope gets complex at that point and I really don't know enough about who is incorporated or has subsidiaries where to know which companies that would work against if it came down to lawyers in courtrooms.

The point is, if a company falls under the territorial scope, they have to extend GDPR rights to /everyone/, because it's not about who you're allowed to track, it's about how you're allowed to use tracking technologies.

[1] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELE...


Is setting up a speed traps and harassing motorists for money instead of fighting crime is not a misconduct?


"Harassing" people for speeding is one of the things we have the police for.


Traffic laws can easily be enforced mechanically in a far more dispassionate way than the effect lottery-system-slanted-by-privilege that we have today.


The main role of the police is to act as a deterrent for criminal behavior, not to fight crime (though they do both). Being seen by everyone who drives by fulfills the deterrent role, while allowing them to generate income for their precinct that keeps taxes lower.


I think you might have a very select "definition" of Police:

police /pəˈliːs/ noun 1. the civil force of a state, responsible for the prevention and detection of crime and the maintenance of public order. "when someone is killed, the police have to be informed" synonyms: police force, police officers, policemen, policewomen, officers of the law, the forces of law and order, law enforcement officers, law enforcement agency; More verb 1. (of a police force) have the duty of maintaining law and order in or at (an area or event). synonyms: maintain law and order in, keep the peace in, keep guard over, keep watch on, watch over, guard, protect, defend, patrol, make the rounds of "it would not be possible to police the area effectively"


I define the police by what they do, not by any dictionary definition. I have several friends and former co-workers who are police officers, and most of them believe that their primary role is to be seen and project a presence over an area. I know there are many, many different specific jobs in the police force (in the USA), but the most man hours are put into driving around (often in high crime areas) and keeping an eye on things. Any police officers want to offer their opinions?


No.




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