Police Chief Publicly Disciplines Officers On Social Media

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'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.

Filed Under: dallas, david brown, discipline, police, public accountability, social media


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  1. icon
    Khaim (profile), 16 Jan 2014 @ 6:40am

    Re: The (unfortunate) big difference between public and private employment

    And who makes that decision? Whoever it is now has the power to fire whoever he wants. I'm all for firing public employees when they deserve it, but there needs to be enough checks and balances to make sure it's actually deserved, and not just office politics or a personal vendetta.

    Note that anti-discrimination laws do apply in the private sector; you can't appeal, but you can sue. It would be nice if we could apply the full protections to private employment, but that gets a little more tricky, both morally and practically. The key difference is that the public sector is "us", and we as a whole get to decide how it works; this doesn't hold for private business.

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