from the welcome-to-the-future dept
All too often, we discuss cases of apparent police abuse and instances of law enforcement organizations closing ranks around the abusers. Far too many stories of police destroying evidence of misconduct, massively dismissing complaints against officers, and the violation of some of our most basic rights as citizens have resulted in the permeation of a culture of mistrust. Now, despite these highlighted stories, I'm of the belief that the vast majority of law enforcement officers perform their admittedly difficult duties admirably. That said, when the organizational bureaucracies that run these fraternal orders undermine the public trust, even at a punctuated pace, the resulting public culture is immensely harmed. Citizens are demanding more transparency and accountability from their public servants, perhaps none more so than those that are charged with serving and protecting us.
Well, in an apparent attempt to meet that demand, one police chief in Dallas is taking to social media to publicly announce when his officers are disciplined.
Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown has fired or disciplined 27 officers and employees in the last year. And every time he brings down the hammer, he announces it on Facebook and Twitter, specifying exactly who the men and women are and what they did. On Dec. 30, it was five officers and a 911 call operator.Each tweet and post outline what the nature of the misconduct was, the punishment, and always notes that the officers have rights as accused, including appeal. But don't let that fool you. Chief Brown is very direct, very specific, and names the accused fully. For instance:
I have terminated SC Frank Della for public intoxication, damaging a person's property, and making offensive contact with a person. — Chief David O. Brown (@DPDChief) December 30, 2013
Under Civil Service rules, SC Della has a right to appeal his discipline. — Chief David O. Brown (@DPDChief) December 30, 2013
I'll admit, this is an interesting way to achieve some transparency, and for those that might distrust or dislike law enforcement in general it may be a tantalizing policy to publicly shame such bad actors, but I'm not finding within me the desire to cheer gleefully for this type of thing. Public shaming is a powerful thing. And that's true whether the accused ends up being guilty or innocent. I wonder if this might be a step too far. True, these officers are public servants, they work for us, and any effort at transparency to the public is a good thing, but I'm not certain there's a great deal of value in this beyond a public spectacle and some feel-goods.
Feel-goods aren't what we need. I'm more interested in more substantive reform to the entire relationship between LEOs and the public than forcing a few of them to wear the social media scarlet letter.