Sorry for the brief hiatus. I was so busy over the end of last week and last weekend that I had truly no chance to update here.
As of right now #15 on Google Trends is ratemycop.com. This site came into the limelight a couple weeks ago as I remember and was basically there because the original hosting group (Godaddy) decided that they didn’t want to be involved with any site that could somehow, someway be looked at as “controversial.” (Let’s ignore for the moment that GoDaddy’s adverts featuring scantily clad women with no discernible connection to web hosting, have been looked at by some as controversial.)
Aside from the minor outrage by “internetists” (my phrase…*coined*…for folks that spend all day jumping from places like Digg.com, FARK.com, Slashdot.org, del.icio.us…in other words…geeks like me) that a big hosting firm like GoDaddy would drop a client due to their content, the big deal here was that police were feeling “infringed” by the site.
I have to ask the question, Why? Police are the people’s employees, hired to protect the public safety, and serve the public interest.
Public safety and public interest often are at odds with specific individuals’ interests, and sometimes their safety. That is why we empower the police with the authority that we do. For a law enforcement officer to perform in this role requires a near constant moral and ethical taxing, so the individuals that are truly suited to this work should be held to a high standard, and a high level of scrutiny.
Why is it then that when the perspective of that scrutiny shifts from internal (police, policing the police) to external (the public policing the police) that there is so much fear and discomfort?
If I where a betting man (I can’t afford to be, but if I could I would), I would say it was because there is something to hide. In my opinion, public office carries with it an implied requirement of professional “full-disclosure.” That is not to say that I want to know about what they do when they get home, I could care less (barring actual criminal statutes being broken.)
But if there is an officer who fails a written qualification test 4 times before finally getting a passing grade…that is of concern to me. If there is a specific officer that has, for whatever reason, a history of filed complaints, I as a tax-paying member of the public, want to know that, and I feel I deserve an explanation of the corrective actions taken.
To insinuate that the public-release, of public-information in a more public-friendly format is somehow “endangering” police officer beyond their daily call-to-duty is ridiculous. If information is deemed too sensitive for public release, steps should be taken by the leadership of that organization to re-classify it as “Internal Use Only.” At that point, said information being displayed in a public format DOES constitute reason for concern.
It has been my experience that the only people that dislike police officers are the people who are caught breaking the law. But, that isn’t to say that there are bad apples among the law-enforcement community as well.
From the perspective of a good cop, I can see this as being intimidating as well. A whole new layer of scrutiny on your daily work. Take for example the friendly officer that let you get away with a warning for rolling through that stop-sign last week. What if you log on, enter his/her badge number and submit positive feedback for them about letting slide this time…and it turns out that your is the 10th positive comment this month talking about loose enforcement? Now do they face possible repercussions at work?
Bottom line, it is a complicated thing, the Internets. Information about everything and everyone is becoming more and more available, and with that availability you will eventually run into situations where value (monetary or otherwise) is placed on that information. Anytime valued is attached to a thing, there is the possibility that someone somewhere is going to have an increased interest in it…and it is when peoples interests are affected that actions take place that can be construed as positive OR negative depending on the eye of the beholder.