The conservative think tank Cato Institute has announced its latest effort to hold local police accountable by establishing its National Police Misconduct Reporting Project. Its purpose is to “determine the extent of police misconduct in the United States, identify trends affecting police misconduct, and report on issues about police misconduct in order to enhance public awareness on issues regarding police misconduct in the U.S.”
Its website, www.policemisconduct.net, currently lists an increasing number of incidents involving police officers who have stepped outside the bounds of their duty. One after another, incidents such as "Lanagan, MO police chief, officer indicted, suspended for forgery"; "Denver police officer allegedly sexually assaulted a woman during a traffic stop"; and "Dallas City Council approves $500,000 for settlement for motorcyclist whose beating was caught on police dash-cam" are presented on its website in its attempt to educate citizens about such illegal behavior by the men in blue.
Cato says its purposes are honorable: “Only a small fraction of the 17,000 law enforcement agencies [in the country] actually track their own misconduct … and even when they do, the data … is generic and does not specify what misconduct occurred, who did it, and what the end result was.”
The institute obtains its data from all media sources, and the facts are verified by its staff before being posted on the website. Further, the staff working on the project want to be notified by readers of any errors of fact, and are open to receiving information about other incidents reported in the media that they haven't vetted yet.
Cato staff use media accounts rather than civil or criminal court records because “only a fraction of the incidents that occur actually wind up in litigation” and “very few instances of police misconduct are actually prosecuted.” Besides, most states prevent police departments from releasing such information or else permit them to keep the details secret from the public. Says the Cato website:
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