Monday, March 17, 2008

RateMyCop.com shut down, but this good idea should really be a government function

Via Stephen Gustitis I learn about "a new website called RateMyCop.com, that apparently was shut down last week after a flurry of controversy. Gustitis refers us to "Robert Guest at the new Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog [who] started the hoopla here. Gideon jumped in here. And Greenfield here.

"Guest observed the website owners were sending out open record requests to Texas law enforcement agencies to fill-out their database on Texas cops. Interestingly, the TDCAA message board was abuzz with discussions about the website and the requests."

The site was taken down very recently (see a March 12 screen shot) after its ISP pull the plug on its service without warning because of vigorous complaints from law enforcement. Scott Greenfield astutely pointed out that no one's similarly trying to shut down a site that lets cops gripe about other cops who write them tickets.

Personally I don't see why it takes a private group filing open records request to do this. Clearly from the positive public reaction to the site (outside of law enforcement), there's a hunger for information about police at this level of detail, and I see no reason to shut down a public venue discussing the subject. It sounds to me like RateMyCop was taking a responsible approach - relying on open records to document claims instead of only publishing anecdotal accounts. Ironically, though, it was the open records requests that made the police mad.

As far as I'm concerned, I'd like to see departments themselves publish every commendation and sustained disciplinary action online for every cop in their department, and provide the public an opportunity for direct, online feedback about individual officers, just like RateMyCop wants to do. I don't think it would harm a thing, and it might even give police supervisors information about their officers' performance they otherwise could never know, good and bad. The disciplinary actions and commendations are public records, anyway, and such a gesture would probably improve public trust of police thanks to the greater transparency.

18 comments:

Stephen Gustitis said...

Scott:
Thanks for commenting on this issue. Your idea that the government should be open and providing this information is a good one. Everyone benefits and trust in law enforcement is encouraged. It's the secrecy that really bugs the public. What are they really afraid of anyway? Thanks again for adding to the discussion.

sg

Anonymous said...

How about "Rate my Crime?"

Anonymous said...

Transparency and independent oversight are the only answer to correcting the criminal justice system, especially in Texas. The voting public needs to take back the reins. I was shocked with reality yesterday when I read TDCAA blogs. I don't agree that the government is always suited for this kind of responsibility, but they need to cooperate with those that do report it.

Anonymous said...

The TCLEOSE web site lists all actions taken against officers.

Anonymous said...

PS - They already do have "Rate My Crime". Its the sentencing game judges and da's play. Loosely based on reality.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"The TCLEOSE web site lists all actions taken against officers."

That is not remotely accurate. Only criminal indictments and terminations are even reported to TCLEOSE, and those aren't published on their website. If I'm wrong, please show me where. Here's their site - if anybody finds such data, let me know. Under the law, I don't even believe they gather it, much less publish it.

And yes, "Rate my crime" is already an exceedingly popular pastime. Rate my cop is merely a derivative subset from this larger cultural fascination with blame and punishment.

Trey said...

Ratemycop appears to be working for me.
-Trey, D Magazine

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What link are you using, Trey? The one linked in the first sentence of the post is to http://ratemycop.com, and it takes me to an unrelated page titled "Loving Family Dollhouses."

Alex Bentley said...

Scott, I just posted this article on our site, and when I clicked the link provided in your article it takes me directly to RateMyCop.com. Not sure why it's not working for you.

Alex Bentley -- Pegasus News

Trey said...

Scott - I clicked on your link and it worked fine.

I had readers at FB comment but every computer I log in has no problem accessing the site.

Anonymous said...

I can get to the website too - but I can't click on anything once I'm there; it seems to be locked up or inactive.

W. W Woodward said...

Grits,

Try the following address for TCLEOSE's Newsletter "Closeup" in which peace officer and jailer license suspensions are listed. The information is admittedly,somewhat outdated. The Closeup news letter used to be a quarterly publication but it has been catch as catch can for the past few years.

http://www.tcleose.state.tx.us/closeup/closeup.htm

W. W Woodward said...

Also, as per TCLEOSE rules (see Texas administrative code) peace officers and jailers as well as their agencies are required to report arrests, indictments, and their results to TCLEOSE. Of course this rule, as well as others, is not exactly observed as well as TCLEOSE seems to expect.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

License suspensions are only those who not only are fired but lose their license entirely (usually for a criminal conviction).

I'm talking about regular disciplinary actions, e.g., Officer Smith cursed at a motorist at a traffic stop and received a written reprimand and additional training, or Officer Jones was suspended 30 days for getting drunk off duty and assaulting his wife. TCLEOSE doesn't even track those types of complaints. They only even get information when an officer is fired or arrested, and none of it's published unless the officer loses their license.

Anonymous said...

With over 100,000 licensees (police and jailers) that would be a task. Maybe citizens should try to get local agencies to release that data.

Anonymous said...

As a police supervisor, I agree. The cities should have a place (easy to find) on their PD's website where citizens can file anonymous tips and complaints. In my experience, people are reluctant to come face to face or even call on the phone even for the most minor perceived officer misconduct. And yes, I know why. But anyway, what I like is that it would give me the heads up on officer behavior that will not be seen with his sergeant standing there. I can follow up on the anon tip and see where it goes. If it's unfounded, no harm no foul, but if not...

Watch the giant turd the police unions will have over that one!

Anonymous said...

The above comments are typical of an underperforming police supervisor. Let the citizens do your job anonymously? How about get out in the field and directly supervise your officers. Its a lot easier to sit in the station and drink bad coffee isn't it?

And people wonder why nobody wants to be a cop anymore.

Anonymous said...

and people wonder why nobody wants to be a people anymore.