Access to police misconduct records is necessary to protect the public and ensure accountability in a range of contexts. The contents of disciplinary records provide insight into an individual officer’s suitability to serve in law enforcement. Similarly, these records shed light on patterns of police misconduct and help ensure communities can evaluate whether law enforcement agencies are conducting fair investigations into citizen complaints. Unfortunately, confidentiality laws in many states prohibit disclosure of this valuable information.
Where records about police misconduct are kept secret, police violence goes unchecked, accountability is undermined, and reform is stalled. States that block public access to police disciplinary records and civilian complaints should enact legislation to open this essential information to the public.