Generally speaking, police departments resist accountability and oversight, and are very often hostile to public records requests and requests for police complaint forms. In Massachussetts, the police have refused to comply with legal records requests. One activist who did so had the police called on her for the audacity of exercising her rights under the law. As the public demands more accountability from the police, who are supposed to serve the public, they are ket with more resistance and hostility.
The social unrest triggered by police misconduct has highlighted the lack of accountability in most police departments around the country. It is extremely rare for police officers to be held accountable for even the most egregious misconduct, which has bred a great deal of resentment by many people in this country, triggering an overdue conversation about how we want our police forces to conduct themselves. The links below offer some examples of this new era of scrutiny on the nation’s police forces.
Taxpayers pay huge amounts of money for police misconduct – Very often lawsuits against the police are settled quietly, preventing people from learning about them, with taxpayers footing the bill. Some cities have paid millions of dollars in settlements, which has not led to reforms in how the police interact with the public. By having taxpayers pay the settlements, police departments are insulated from a need to reform their practices.
Police becoming more isolated – The issue of the public recording the police has gained new attention in light of recent events, generating more conflict between police officers, who often do not want to be filmed, and the public who want to hold police accountable. Thanks to the dogged persistence of sites such as Photography Is Not A Crime and Honor Your Oath, the balance of oversight has shifted back towards the public, thanks to cell phone video. Because more people are recording interactions with police, official police narratives of events have often proven to be completely false. Events that were once defended and dismissed by police have forced police departments to respond with more candor.
Police officers often lie with impunity – Additionally, the issue of police committing perjury and lying on the stand in court, a practice so prevalent that it has been given its own nickname, “testilying”, results in virtually no consequences. Police face no consequences for committing perjury, lying, and submitting false reports, and very often, it is only citizen cell phone video which results in increased attention on police misconduct. This article has additional information about police who lie in court and in the reports they submit.
Police spread false information about those who challenge them – Jeff Gray is a reporter for the independent news site Photography Is Not A Crime, and routinely records public officials conducting their duties in public, which is his right guaranteed under the Constitution. His actions however, are not appreciated by the police, who have harassed and arrested him, and spread false information in an attempt to keep him from video taping and documenting police activities.
Civil Forfiture: Legalized roadside theft by police – Roadside stops allow police to confiscate large amounts of cash from innocent citizens without any findings of guilt or due process. Millions of dollars have been taken by police, with little oversight, forcing victims to fight to have their money returned, bearing burden of guilt. This has allowed police departments around the country to go on spending sprees for all manner of goods, some official, some not. The Washington Post ran a detailed investigation of this offensive practice called Stop and Seize, and the issue has become so odious, that John Oliver recently gave it razor-sharp attention, in the video below: