A police offender registry?

May 4, 2015
Reason.com's solution to keep the officers who've faced disciplinary issues off the streets

While conducting some research, I ran across a Dec. 2014 article in the online publication, Reason.com. It’s a self-described libertarian website and the piece was authored by associate editor Ed Krayewski.

There’s a lot about the libertarian philosophy I like and some things I don’t, but this column isn't about libertarianism. It’s about the idea presented by Mr. Krayewski and the growing trend on the parts of the press to ignore the thousands and thousands of good, decent, fair and courageous things police officers do each and every day across this country, and instead focus on the scant fraction of bad apples that give our profession a bad name.

In his piece, Krayewski calls for the federal and state governments to create a police offender registry, much like the sex offender registry. On that registry would be the names of "bad cops." It’s his solution for keeping the officers who've faced disciplinary issues off the streets. I’d like to address that concept.

First, an aside: as anyone who understands the libertarian stance would know, adding layers of governmental bureaucracy is the polar opposite of libertarian philosophy. Libertarians believe in less government involvement, not more, so adding a government-controlled registry would serve only to build yet another layer of government into the criminal justice hiring system—that brings up another issue.

Police already have a bad cop registry. It’s called a background check and, in many cases, it’s reinforced with a polygraph. I don’t know of any agency that fails to conduct background checks on the officers they hire. When I was a detective, and we were hiring, my lieutenant would sometimes farm out those background checks to the detective division. We all hated doing them, but that didn't stop us from doing a thorough job. If a cop who was unfit for duty slipped through the hiring process, our rear ends were on the line and we knew it. Plus, who wants a less-than-competent officer covering your back? Not me, and not any professional I know.

And then there are the polygraphs, which for many agencies is now a requirement prior to hiring. It’s not enough to take someone’s word that he or she isn’t a secret felon. No one wants to work alongside a sex offender or thief or someone who turns to violence to solve all of his or her problems.

The author of this piece also wants to tie compliance with the police registry to federal grants and other financial assistance departments receive. If this sounds like the polar opposite of what a libertarian publication would recommend, you’re dead on. This is simply a terrible idea grown out of the author’s apparent dislike of the police profession.

Krayewski may be an exemplary journalist; I’m not familiar with his work. But considering the law enforcement stories appearing on Reason.com, the publication apparently gravitates to stories of alleged police misconduct. I couldn’t find a single redeeming law enforcement story on the site, because as we all know, police are inherently evil and never do anything good or worthy of mentioning. Someone needs to remember that good journalism is balanced. While it’s fine for a publication to have an editorial philosophy, I believe in fair coverage. In Reason’s world, cops can do no right, even when they are in the right.

I’m tired of sensationalistic "gotcha" journalism. It’s time for the press to admit that the tiny percent of bad cops is no more representative of our profession than the deeply discredited journalist Stephen Glass—who fabricated many of his stories—is representative of their profession.

About the Author

Carole Moore

A 12-year veteran of police work, Carole Moore has served in patrol, forensics, crime prevention and criminal investigations, and has extensive training in many law enforcement disciplines. She welcomes comments at [email protected]

She is the author of The Last Place You'd Look: True Stories of Missing Persons and the People Who Search for Them (Rowman & Littlefield, Spring 2011)

Carole can be contacted through the following:

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