New Police Discipline Database: More Transparency and Accountability

Police Accountability, Racial Justice

Lawyers for Civil Rights Applauds New Police Discipline Database, Urges More Transparency and Accountability

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) applauds the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission for publishing a database showing the disciplinary records of Massachusetts police officers accused of misconduct.  Transparency is critical for holding law enforcement accountable.  This public database represents an important step forward in ensuring that the public will know when police officers have been disciplined for discriminatory practices, excessive force, and other abuses.

One of the key reasons why transparency is so important is that it shows where gaps in enforcement lie, and where improvements are needed.  In that regard, the POST Commission database raises a host of questions.  For example: why are there 167 law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth that report no sustained complaints against their officers?  History and experience tell us that this is because these police departments are unable to effectively police themselves.  To uncover the true extent of police misconduct, independent third-party investigation is needed.
The database must also provide more detailed information about misconduct that is alleged and sustained.  For example, two Arlington police officers who are currently the subject of a racial profiling lawsuit brought by LCR are listed in the database.  However, the notation of “other misconduct” in their entries on the database masks the true nature of their misconduct. Similarly, the final officer involved in the lawsuit is not captured by the database because he resigned after the racial profiling incident.

LCR therefore applauds the POST Commission’s step towards greater transparency, but urges the Commission to make more information publicly available, so that Massachusetts communities can hold law enforcement accountable and bring about needed reforms.