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Many Police Union Contracts Bar Public Access To Officer Conduct Records

February 8, 2016 09:14:54 am

Contracts between police and city authorities, leaked after hackers breached the website of the Fraternal Order of Police, contain guarantees that disciplinary records and complaints made against officers are kept secret or even destroyed, reports the Guardian. An analysis of dozens of contracts obtained from FOP servers found that more than a third featured clauses allowing – and often mandating – the destruction of records of civilian complaints, departmental investigations, or disciplinary actions after a negotiated period of time. The review found that 30 percent of the 67 leaked police contracts, which were struck between cities and police unions, included provisions barring public access to records of past civilian complaints, departmental investigations, and disciplinary actions.

Criminologist Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska Omaha said there was “no justification” for the cleansing of officers’ records, which could contain details of their use of force against civilians. “The public has a right to know,” he said. “If there was a controversial beating, we ought to know what action was actually taken. Was it a reprimand? A suspension?” Walker said that while an officer’s whole personnel file should not be readily available to the public outside of court proceedings, records of disciplinary action should be. The leaked contracts became publicly accessible last week, when hackers breached the FOP website and put many files online. These provide a glimpse into the influence of police unions, which Black Lives Matter activists have accused of impeding misconduct investigations, particularly after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore in April. FOP President Chuck Canterbury said contract provisions were designed to protect the due process rights of police officers. “Disciplinary files are removed because they affect career advancement,” said Canterbury. “People make mistakes and if they learn from them, they should be removed. This is standard HR practice.”



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