We know that the police complaints procedure—cops investigating other cops—is deeply flawed. Police, to borrow a phrase, tend to “circle the wagons,” and they use other protective measures on the scene. As we learned once again from the G20, badge numbers seem to disappear when officers are stressed, and as we found out from the Chad Aiken case in Ottawa, those numbers can also turn out to be fake.
There is a temptation, therefore, to turn to avenues such as this to balance the scales. But it’s a blind alley.
Just as in the Rate My Professor site, comments appear virtually without screening, let alone any kind of verification. Having read RMP evaluations of professors I actually know, they can be right on or wildly off. It’s fascinating to read these commentaries, many of them from students who have not fared terribly well for whatever reason, but it is fundamentally limited as an information source.
And the other obvious point to make is that none of this actually changes anything.
Rate your cop, by all means. But this won’t change anything either. It’s about as relevant to police accountability as the comments at the end of on-line news stories affects the practices and policies of the mainstream media.
Want to do something actually effective to reign in our many rogue cops? Make it an election issue. Put pressure on your political representatives. Demand effective, accessible civilian review of citizen complaints, including tribunals with the power to compel witnesses, testimony and the production of documents.
The media can play its part by ceasing to shield the names of police officers who cross the line.* It took forever to get the names of the cops who killed Robert Dziekanski, and too long to find out the names of the five officers involved in the stomping of Stacy Bonds. Following up stories is also important—the media lose interest quickly, and the public is kept in the dark.
Judge My Cop may be a great place to let off steam. But making police accountable to the communities they are supposed to serve and protect will take a lot more serious engagement than that.
*I don’t favour naming anyone before they are actually convicted, but so long as media continue this practice, they should at least be consistent about it.