National Police Misconduct Database

 National Police Misconduct Database

As police leaders pledge to reform and weed out “bad apples” within their departments, it has become more urgent than ever for law enforcement to have a formal, wide-reaching system in place to identify police misconduct. There are 697,195 full-time sworn law enforcement officers employed in more than 13,000 local police departments throughout the U.S. Federal statute defines police misconduct as the excessive force, sexual assault, intentional false arrests, theft, or the intentional fabrication of evidence resulting in the loss of liberty to another. Strikingly, however, there exists no formal national database that records officer misconduct and the police officer’s resulting resignation or termination due to misconduct. Consequently, law enforcement officers guilty of serious misconduct can find employment at different agencies after they have been fired or resigned due to the unavailability of a national database. Since 2006, approximately 24% of fired police officers from some of the largest police departments have been reinstated. It’s worth noting some of the police departments were later required to rehire the officers they fired.

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 National Police Misconduct Database
 National Police Misconduct Database

Key Observations

  • There is a pressing need to track the volume of police officer misconduct and to understand how officers accumulate conduct violations while remaining active members of the department. 
  • Black officers have fewer accusations of wrongdoing than White officers, yet they are more likely to receive disciplinary action.
  • Citizens should have confidence that their encounters with officers in the community meet professional standards.
  • Police executives should be aware that officer misconduct or abuse of authority reflects negatively on the character of the department.
  • Agencies must recruit, hire, and retain officers who are above reproach.
 National Police Misconduct Database

Recommendations

  • Develop a national police misconduct database detailing specific citizens’ complaints, disciplinary actions taken, the nature and extent of officer complaints, misconduct violations, and sub-sequential officer termination and decertification.
  • Mandatory reporting of misconduct data for measuring and detecting local, regional, and national patterns.
  • Establish mandatory decertification and termination thresholds for severe police misconduct and behavior that threaten the safeguard of citizens.
 National Police Misconduct Database
 National Police Misconduct Database

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