Lawmakers In Twenty States Debate The Need To Make Police Records Public


Nationwide, lawmakers are debating whether or not to make police disciplinary records public. In nearly two dozen states, lawmakers are actively considering legislation that would make police use-of-force records available to the public. Meanwhile, 20 states are explicitly against the idea of making use-of-force records available to the public. Supporters of releasing these records believe that increased transparency could lead to better run police departments and improved trust between cops and citizens. Opponents of releasing these records argue that it could certain police officers in danger.

In North Carolina and Utah, state lawmakers have worked to allow third-party agencies to create private databases with use-of-force records. Both Republican and Democratic legislators have argued that such databases could decrease the chance of "bad apples" moving from department to department.

“We want people to feel that they can report a bad cop,” Utah State Senator Jani Iwamoto said.

“We enable agencies to better screen individuals … so that we can weed out who the bad apples are,” North Carolina State Senator Danny Britt added.

This debate rages on as the nation sees a number of high-profile instances in which Black Americans are killed by police. Within the last month, Daunte Wright, Isaiah Brown, Andrew Brown Jr. and Ma'Khia Bryant were killed at the hands of police. In an effort to create more transparency in the police force, major states like California and New York have introduced sweeping legislation that will make use of force records public.

New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal made an executive decision to order local and state police release the names and disciplinary records of officers who had been fired, demoted or suspended for more than five days. However, nothing has come of the Grewal's order just yet. Police unions across the Garden State have legally challenged his order because they feel it will paint certain officers in a negative light.

“People have to stop assuming every officer is a problem officer,” New Jersey State Policemen Benevolent Association President Pat Colligan said.

As this debate rages on, lawmakers and police unions across the country continue to work toward a compromise.

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