Editorial: A roster of rogues: Trump’s police brutality database is a good idea

Tribune Content Agency

President Donald Trump moved a bit forward on police reform Tuesday, signing an executive order that doesn’t mandate change, but only “encourages” police departments to modify their policies under threat of losing federal grant money.

More systemic improvements need to come from Congress and states and localities.

But Trump’s order includes a promising provision requiring Attorney General Bill Barr create a database “concerning instances of excessive use of force related to law enforcement matters, accounting for applicable privacy and due process rights.”

Such a clearinghouse would grant law enforcement agencies shared access to officers’ use of force records, a way to prevent departments’ unwittingly hiring bad cops whose records from elsewhere were a mystery.

The database isn’t perfect and won’t include incidents when officers faced internal discipline but not termination for inappropriate use of force.

And excluded from the database are instances where law enforcement officers weren’t “afforded fair process,” a potentially humongous loophole, depending on Trump and Barr’s definition of the word “fair.”

Furthermore, the database won’t be accessible to the public, who’ll see only periodic releases of anonymized, aggregated info instead of details.

The other database that needs to be built is to collect national statistics on police use of deadly force. None of it is secret, but it’s scattered across 50 states and thousands of local jurisdictions. Putting those numbers all in one place is long overdue.


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