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New Police Crimes Database Provides Law Enforcement Accountability Tool

NEW YORK CITY – APRIL 14 2015: several hundred activists from Stop Mass Incarceration Network rallied at Union Square Park before marching to Lower Manhattan.

Photo Credit: a katz / Shutterstock.com

In September, Bowling Green State University in Ohio published the country’s first online police crime database. It’s a tiny but notable miracle for groups like Black Lives Matter who have called for larger law coercion burden as police brutality and the shootings of African Americans by officers have continued to browbeat headlines.

The Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database covers a seven-year duration from 2005 to 2012 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia: 8,006 cases were brought against 6,596 officers from 2,830 metropolitan departments nationwide. There are 18,000 police departments and 1.1 million sworn officers in the United States.


The database includes information about particular police officers who have been arrested—sometimes by their own departments—on transgression and bungle charges trimming from unfinished control to aggravated assault. But it is brief on details, only identifying any officer by his or her badge number. There is little information about officers who were put on hearing or served time in prison.

According to Phil Stinson, the Bowling Green State University highbrow of criminology and former police officer who combined the database, many officers who are held committing a crime are given the option to renounce sensitively instead of confronting a trial. “Granted, since everybody who is in the database has been arrested or charged,” Stinson says, “we don’t know a lot about the bungle of police officers if it doesn’t outcome in them being brought into the rapist probity complement or some other grave way.”

Moreover, police departments are notorious for being demure to divulge justification relating to purported officer misconduct. In Oct 2014, a Chicago police officer shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald when they were called to his area after getting reports of a black teen erratic around with a knife. It took some-more than a year and large hearings for McDonald’s family to get entrance to the dashboard video that decorated the sharpened that cost McDonald his life. A circuitously Burger King notice camera also available the shooting, but before the McDonald family or media could entrance the video, police officers deleted the video.

Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot McDonald, had 20 prior complaints filed against him from adults who complained about him using extreme force but had never been convicted of any crimes.

In its stability pull for police accountability, the BGSU database may infer to be a absolute apparatus for the Black Lives Matter movement. Launched after Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012, BLM has sparked a inhabitant discuss about policing in African American and other minority communities. Their activism has led to certain reforms, such as the use of physique cameras to record interactions with civilians, and the incremental scaling back of “broken windows” policing tactics.

The database demonstrates that crimes committed by police officers are not “one-off conditions that [don’t] occur very often,” Stinson says. “People opposite the country, every day, are reading reports of [police officers] being arrested.” Indeed, tracking felonies and misdemeanors committed by police officers helps lift recognition of a pivotal issue: the bent by some police officers to provide every person of tone as a intensity think rather than as a citizen who deserves satisfactory diagnosis and protection. 

Lia Russell is an editorial novice at the Prospect.

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