President Joe Biden has set up a database that many of us simply presumed to already exist until we found out otherwise.
But it was only today that the president announced the establishment of a federal database for abusive federal cops. Its success will depend on local governments utilizing the federal database to conduct background checks — and their willingness to report their own worst offenders.
It is hard for one to wrap one’s mind around the fact that it took this long.
A pharmacist in Seattle can see records that you got a Xanax prescription filled in Miami because there is a national database. But an FBI chief in Seattle would not have known about complaints filed against an abusive DEA agent when considering hiring that person.
Unfortunately, the database isn’t complete, indeed, it’s nothing more than a baby step because it only covers federal law enforcement. Any city or county would have to voluntarily enter information into the database and voluntarily check it before hiring.
According to The Philadelphia Tribune’s report:
“Yet the initiative is significantly limited in scope because the U.S. government lacks the authority to require participation from thousands of state, local and tribal police departments, which make up the majority of the nation’s law enforcement personnel.”
“Justice officials told reporters in a background call that they will provide federal grants and partner with the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards to try to construct a similar vetting system for local police.”
It is highly tempting to be very cynical about whether local and state police departments will participate in its use. But there is one good reason to use the system that even the cynics will have to acknowledge.
Rogue cops end up costing their county or city a lot of money due to 42 U.S.C. 1983 actions that allow one to sue city and county police for a violation of someone’s civil rights. (That liability doesn’t cover state police due to the 11th Amendment.)
Insurance rates for smaller counties and cities may be tied to using the database.
But it remains shocking and somewhat of a gut punch that so many assume such a database exists, and yet it doesn’t. It certainly isn’t for lack of technology.
There are means by which one who is falsely accused of abusive behavior can challenge an entry into the system. The law enforcement officers’ constitutional rights can and must be protected.
You will not have a hard time believing that Democrats have already attempted to set up a national database, since it requires an act of Congress to force non-federal law enforcement officials to participate. The George Floyd Policing Act failed due to Republican opposition.
Donald Trump wasn’t kidding when he said that cops shouldn’t be so nice to the people that they arrest as to ensure that they don’t hit their heads on the car door jam on the way to the hoosegow.
It is almost like the GOP wants to provide cover for rogue cops. Is there any other means by which to explain why a database hasn’t already been implemented?
We know what President Biden wants:
My Administration launched the first National Law Enforcement Accountability Database so federal law enforcement misconduct records will be available to agencies considering hiring them.
It's a promise kept. And a measure of what's necessary to begin to heal our nation's soul.
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 19, 2023
Today, @POTUS and I are establishing the first ever federal database to track official records of misconduct by law enforcement officers.
Read my full statement on the launch of the National Law Enforcement Accountability Database: pic.twitter.com/3aCWRGL2Yb
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) December 19, 2023
To read more about the database, you can read the DOJ’s press release in this tweet:
Justice Department Launches National Law Enforcement Accountability Database
First Database of Its Kind to Centralize Federal Law Enforcement Officer Records and Increase Accountability and Transparency in Law Enforcement Hiringhttps://t.co/pBcOy9wcqA pic.twitter.com/FN5O3ZnEvx
— U.S. Department of Justice (@TheJusticeDept) December 18, 2023
This column is based on original reporting by David Nakamura, Marisa Iati, Mark Berman of The Philadelphia Tribune.
I can be reached at email@example.com and on “X” @JasonMiciak.
Editor’s note: This is an opinion column that solely reflects the opinions of the author.