« "Why Plea Bargains are Not Confessions" | Main | Notable NPR coverage of the "Human Casualties Of Mandatory Sentencing" »

December 16, 2014

Should problematic police be on a registry like sex offenders?

The provocative question in the title of this post is drawn from this provocative new commentary by Ed Krayewski at Reason titled "Time for a Police Offenders Registry." Here are excerpts:

There's a moral obligation to keep bad cops off the streets.  A job with a police department is not a right and shouldn't be treated like one. Police unions that push for permissive rules that end up protecting bad cops pose a serious public safety threat. Nevertheless, dismantling them where they've taken root is a difficult prospect even in the long-term. There are other ways to keep bad cops off the streets. The federal government, and state governments, ought to create and encourage the use of a police offender registry list.  Such a list would register individuals who while employed as law enforcement officers were found unfit for duty or faced serious disciplinary issues they may have resigned to avoid. Just as any other component of comprehensive police reform, this won't eliminate excessive police violence, but it's a start.

When actually identified, a surprising (or not) number of officers involved in controversial, high-profile use of force incidents have previously disciplinary history.  Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City cop who put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold, had been previously accused, at least twice, of racially-motivated misconduct, including strip searching a man in the middle of the street and allegedly hitting his testicles.  The police union in New York City is among the strongest in the country.  When a rookie cop shot Akai Gurley in apparent panic last month, he didn't think twice to reportedly contact his union rep first. A man lay dying in a stairwell for no other reason that he startled a rookie, and the fact that the officer called his union representative before calling for assistance isn't shocking enough to lead to the officer's termination.  Even if it were, it would still be impossible to terminate the officer immediately.  While all this is happening, the state of New York is on the verge of placing even more of the disciplinary regime that applies to cops under the purview of the police unions.

But not everywhere is the situation as hopeless as in New York City.  In other parts of the country, cops can get fired relatively more easily.  But it doesn't stop them from finding jobs elsewhere.  Richard Combs, who was the sheriff and only cop in Eutawville, South Carolina, is now facing a murder charge for shooting a resident after an argument at Town Hall, but Combs had been previously terminated from the county sheriff's office for unspecified "unsatisfactory performance."  In Cleveland, Ohio, the cop who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, mistaking the boy's toy gun for a real one, had been previously found too emotionally unstable and unfit to carry a firearm for law enforcement.  In Georgia, the cop who shot and killed 17-year-old Christopher Roupe after the teen opened the door to his home holding a Wii controller, had been previously fired for multiple disciplinary problems including shooting at an unarmed person....

This is just a sampling of stories that received enough local attention to gain some prominence.  The situation is unconscionable.  Police found unfit for duty in one jurisdiction shouldn't be employed in another.  Cops who resign to avoid disciplinary charges shouldn't slither their way into another department.  Cops who cost taxpayers millions in lawsuit settlements shouldn't be able to expose taxpayers in other places to the same risk....

State governments, and the federal government, can help.  Sex offender registries, which in some jurisdictions can lead to 19-year-olds who receive sexts from their 17-year-old friends being branded sexual predators for life, are an odious thing that makes a mockery of due process and the idea of the penal system as rehabilitation.  But for some of the same reasons they would work to police the privilege of employment in law enforcement. Constitutionally, the federal government could not mandate states use its police offender registry list or operate their own.  Yet because many of the most troublesome police departments (those in big cities and those in the sticks) also rely most on federal assistance in one way or another, the feds could induce compliance by tying it to such assistance.  The federal government has done this before, though usually to push states to impose certain laws on its residents, not to protect residents from abusive government employees. Such a list wouldn't be a comprehensive solution to excessive police violence, but it's an important part, one that could work to lower the number of bad cops operating on the streets and begin to rebuild trust between police and the communities they're supposed to serve. 

December 16, 2014 at 09:42 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e201b8d0aaa6b7970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Should problematic police be on a registry like sex offenders? :

Comments

Time for a registry of people proposing registries. Remove this standard warning in the sex offender registry warning, and give the public immunity to beat their ass. If one cannot do anything with a registry or one violates a law, what is the purpose of a registry? The word Warning is in blood red big font.

"Welcome to the Pennsylvania State Police Megan's Law Website

WARNING

Any person who uses the information contained herein to threaten, intimidate, or harass the registrant or their family, or who otherwise misuses this information, may be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability."

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 16, 2014 10:31:09 AM

oh I don't know SC I kind of like the ideal myself. Especially if it also tracks those cops caught testilying!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 16, 2014 11:24:26 AM

This actually seems like a good, feasible idea. If the government won't do it, maybe some private organization could. If the military had access to such a database, and if it also included people who had abused their authority as prison guards, we might have avoided the Abu Ghraib disaster...

My concern would be that, as with many legal rules, there is a danger that creating additional consequences for a finding of incompetence/unfitness for duty will make police departments, townships, courts, etc. less likely to enter such findings in the first place, even when justified. There is also the question of over-inclusiveness, due process rights around removing unjustified records from the database, etc. (Of course, in the area of sex offenders we just roll right over those legitimate concerns, but that doesn't mean we should repeat the same mistakes here. There should be protections for cops who can show that there has been a mistake or a malicious employment action by a former employer or that for some other reason they aren't actually dangerous/unfit to enforce the law, even if they seem to meet the facial requirements for inclusion in the database.)

Posted by: anon | Dec 16, 2014 12:56:21 PM

I'm with SC on this issue. While it seems fun to tweek the nose of the police with a registry of their own, the reality is that all it would do is perpetuate all kinds of registries. No. Enough is enough. We need to be headed in the other direction.

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 16, 2014 1:42:05 PM

It is ironic. The lawyer intimidates employers into not being candid about why an employee was fired for fear of defamation. Then the next employer is sued for negligent hiring when the employee makes mistakes.

Here is a proposal for a registry that will help this nation. The Registry of Lawyer Hierarchy Members. Arrest them. Try them. Execute them. Then end all social pathologies. End all crime. End anemic economic growth and lawyer induced failure.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 16, 2014 2:25:00 PM

ALL Registries as they are currently used and abused by the government MUST be abolished.

Posted by: albeed | Dec 16, 2014 7:50:56 PM

this is interesting anon!

" There is also the question of over-inclusiveness, due process rights around removing unjustified records from the database, etc. (Of course, in the area of sex offenders we just roll right over those legitimate concerns, but that doesn't mean we should repeat the same mistakes here. There should be protections for cops who can show that there has been a mistake or a malicious employment action by a former employer or that for some other reason they aren't actually dangerous/unfit to enforce the law, even if they seem to meet the facial requirements for inclusion in the database.)"

of course the last time I looked all of these problems you talk about are used to shaft those on the megan's law registry. So sorry tough shit. I am just fine with painting cops with the same brush they have used on others. If they don't like it. toss that sucker and stop using it.

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 17, 2014 3:37:17 AM

A kind “Night & Fog” disposition would work to remove bad cops from the street •

Docile Jim Brady
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit

Posted by: Docile Jim Brady @Bend, OR 97702-3212 | Dec 17, 2014 7:38:13 AM

Did I hear someone say that the registry serves a lawful, "regulatory" purpose of keeping the communtity safe by allowing citizens to make informed decisions, and would never otherwise intrude on registrants' otherwise lawful activities, in which they would have no further restrictions?

Silly me. Bad sex perverts, bad cops. All of you go roll in the pigsty with no judicial guarantees. (Sigh)

Posted by: Eric Knight | Dec 17, 2014 9:06:08 AM

Should problematic police be on a registry like sex offenders?

Hell yes they should.

if nothing else, than to protect the public according to popular reason...if it would protect one family, one person, one child....

Same logic right???

Posted by: Book38 | Dec 17, 2014 11:16:09 AM

The author should know about POST Certification in 44 states. The legislature passes a comprehensive law and sets up a POST Commission. The laws differ in the 44 states. If a cop gets a felony the POST Commission revokes his Certificate to be a cop. If he gets into some other trouble they have a hearing to determine whether to revoke his certificate. Then there is a national registry.

The person who knows all about this is Professor Roger Goldman at Saint Louis University School of Law. He could weigh in here on this topic if someone would notify him.

New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Hawaii and California are states without POST. There is one more.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Dec 17, 2014 11:12:19 PM

still not the same. we have had laws on the books for over 100 years requiring ex con's to notify local law enforcement when they come to town. of course nobody's enforced em for that long as well. so we did not need a registry law that does the same thing. at least that was all it really did at the START>

so why not have 2 for bad cops or other gov't criminals

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 18, 2014 1:05:18 AM

Oh, no! This would put their wives and children at risk of being harmed. Their children would feel marginalized and hated at school. Not to mention placing the officer's life in imminent danger for retaliation and vigilante action. We just can't risk that now can we.. /sarcasm.

Posted by: Lance Mitaro | Dec 23, 2014 5:17:08 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB