Edit desk: Calling for police transparency

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Saad Mansoor

Both the current political landscape and state of the country have made it difficult for the public to trust government-run institutions.

Although most police officers fulfill their duties with integrity, inevitably, there are certain individuals who try to take advantage of their authority.

According to estimates by The Buffalo News, a police officer in America gets caught engaging in sexual abuse or misconduct once every five days. These numbers have been accumulated through press inquiries and victim reports.

In September 2017, two NYPD officers were accused of raping a handcuffed 18-year-old in the back of their van. The officers claimed the sexual acts were consensual and pleaded not guilty to a 50-count indictment in October.

Law enforcement agencies, like police departments, have the right to use more physical power on the public than any other institution in the government. The trust gap between police officers and the public increases when law enforcement officers commit crimes.

Currently, data collected by federal and state governments on excessive force crimes committed by the police doesn’t include sexual misconduct.

Notably, only 44 states in the US have the legal authority to revoke the licenses of officers once they have been dismissed for misconduct, according to the Department of Justice. There is no nationwide system in place that prevents a de-certified officer from getting employed in another state. 

Because there is no centralized database, out-of-state departments cannot gain access to cops’ work histories, so officers who may have been dismissed for misconduct can gain employment in different states. 

Philip Stinson is a criminologist at Bowling Green State University who has conducted research on killings by police officers.

The Chicago Tribune reported Stinson found it is rare for an officer to get charged with a homicide offense resulting from on-duty conduct, though people are killed on a fairly regular basis.

When a police officer kills someone, convictions rarely occur.

Stinson’s study further states 80 officers had been arrested for manslaughter or murder charges for on-duty shootings between 2005 and April 2017. Out of the 80 arrested, just 35 percent were convicted.

Take Cleveland officer Timothy Leohmann. He did not face any charges for killing a 12-year-old because he had reasons to fear for his life.

Another Cleveland officer was cleared from manslaughter charges after he fired at least 15 times on an unarmed couple.

I don’t think the people who are hired to prevent crime should get extra protection for the crimes they commit. The extra protection provided to cops when they are in trouble makes me question the ethics within this line of work.

Why are so many police officers able to get away with committing crimes ordinary citizens would get charged for?

The answer comes down to the fact that police misconduct records are confidential in 23 states like New York and Pennsylvania. They are protected by secrecy laws that prevent the information from being released to the public. Records also have limited availability in 15 more states.

Whenever the Department of Justice decides to open an investigation against an officer, they have little to no data to help them convict that individual.

I believe cops must be held accountable to the same standards as any other citizen.

We need to get rid of qualified immunity, which is a type of legal immunity that protects government officials from lawsuits in which plaintiffs allege them of violating their rights.

Police departments across the nation should be more transparent about officers. This lack of transparency is one of the reasons a lot of people don’t trust the police.

According to a 2015 poll conducted by Reuters, 30.9 percent of individuals agreed police officers routinely served their interests while 25.2 percent of individuals were unsure if the cops served the community or their own interests. This shows a significant number of people don’t trust the motives of police officers.

The poll also shows young people are twice as likely as senior citizens to have a negative view towards the police.

It is evident that the ways in which police departments operate need to change.

I know police officers serve an integral role in society and their job is to ensure the safety of citizens, but statistics make me think twice before trusting them.

Americans respect the police and put a lot of trust into them, but the public should have the assurance that the Department of Justice will remove and convict officers who are guilty of committing crimes.

I understand that only a small percentage of officers take advantage of the law, and at times the bad officers diminish the reputation of the whole force.

Data of police misconduct needs to be made public knowledge nationwide. Lawmakers should push for laws that make it mandatory for all government agencies to create public records that are updated frequently.

Saad Mansoor, ’19, is an assistant lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached [email protected]

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