Wednesday, March 05, 2008

RateMyCop

RateMyCop.com is a new website that allows you to rate individual police officers on the basis of your interactions with them, on the attributes of authority, fairness, and satisfaction, for which you can rate them poor, average, or good, and leave specific comments about your interactions. The site describes itself like this:
Welcome to RATEMYCOP.com, the online watchdog organization serving communities nationwide. RATEMYCOP.com is not affiliated with any government agency; we are an independent, privately managed organization.

Our mission is to compile information on cops’ performance and to provide a forum where users can freely share individual accounts. Good, bad or indifferent. Most of all, we would like to hear your stories. Your appreciation and your disapproval. Did you witness a cop doing a good deed, or were you involved in an unfortunate altercation? Tell us about it. Tell others about it. Let it out. Don’t feel intimidated by the badge to remain quiet.

While we respect their authority we are also free to question it. You have the right to remain informed.
The site has lists of 120,000 individual police officers from 450 departments around the country, which the site obtained directly from police departments, asking only for the names of patrol officers who work with the general public, not undercover officers. There are no photos, addresses, or telephone numbers, only names.

The city of Tempe has expressed disapproval and its intention to try to remove this information from the site, according to an ABC 15 News story which claims the site is a danger to officers. Tempe Police Department Officer Tony Miller is quoted in the story raising issues about undercover officers, and the article says that he "feels as though officers like him are scrutinized enough." The article also states that "Tempe officer Brandon Banks says the department's chief, human resources and even the city's prosecutor are looking into the website and fighting it." I don't see that they have a case, this information should all be a matter of public record.

It seems to me that there is potential for abuse (especially in the form of inaccurate ratings and comments, just as on teacher rating websites), but less so than there is from other kinds of public records about all of us that are published on the web. I disagree with Officer Miller's opinion that there is already sufficient accountability for police officers; this blog's previous posts in the "police abuse and corruption" category and the far more numerous and detailed posts from Radley Balko's The Agitator blog and his article "Overkill" are overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

It's worth noting that the courts have repeatedly ruled that there is no duty of police officers to protect individual members of the public, and many states have statutes which prevent individual officers and departments from being held civilly liable for a failure to provide adequate protection, a fact often used by gun advocates to argue for widespread gun ownership for individual protection (e.g., here, here, and here). The U.S. Supreme Court also eliminated a major protection against police abuse in 2006, when it ruled in Hudson v. Michigan (PDF) that evidence from an illegal no-knock raid need not be excluded from trial, because police officers have entered a new realm of "professionalism" in which they recognize civil liberties and can be trusted to investigate and deter their own abuses. In the wake of such decisions and continuing abuses, a website such as RateMyCop.com seems to me like a good idea.

What the site seems to be missing, though, is a way to quickly find officers who have received ratings (very few seem to have any yet), and to sort those in order to find those with favorable or unfavorable ratings.

UPDATE (March 12, 2008): Apparently GoDaddy has pulled the plug on RateMyCop.com's website without notice to the owner, allegedly first for "suspicious activity" and then for exceeding bandwidth limits, and the site is up with a new web hosting provider.

It looks like the ratings are now on a single category, and you can see a list of the most-rated and most-recently-rated on the front page. Another feature that would be nice would be a way to allow registered users to rate the raters for reliability, similar to the way Amazon.com book reviews can be rated as helpful or not helpful. That way, ratings could be weighted based on judgments of the reliability of the raters from the user base, and ratings from those with a personal axe to grind could have their weight minimized.

Looks like Rackspace has also refused to host ratemycop.com.

Interestingly, apparently Gino Sesto of RateMyCop.com was a Bush voter.

2 comments:

Robert said...

Myself, I like this new trend of being able to get information about those around you.

http://www.ratemycoworkers.com/ and http://www.rottenneighbor.com/ are two other good sites that let you rate those that you deal with on a daily basis.

Einzige said...

Has David Brin's "Transparent Society" finally arrived?