'Rate my Cop' website causes a stir

Rate My Cop From CBS13.com 9/3/08:

Police agencies from coast to coast are furious with a new website on the internet. RateMyCop.com has the names of thousands of officers, and many believe it is putting them in danger.

Kevin Martin, the vice president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, agrees. "Will they be able to access our home addresses, home phone numbers, marital status, whether or not we have children? That's always a big concern for us," he said.

Creators of the site say no personal information will be on the site. They gathered officers' names, which are public information, from more than 450 police agencies nationwide. Some listings also have badge numbers along with the officer's names.

Rebecca Costell says, in a statement, that the site helps people rate more than 130,000 officers by rating them on authority, fairness and satisfaction. She adds, "Our website's purpose is to break the stereotype that people have that cops are all bad by having officers become responsible for their actions."

At first glance, this is disturbing on so many levels. Having said that, seeing how many other ‘rate my..’ sites are around, maybe it was only a matter of time before something like this reared its head. While it could represent a security risk, I suppose, many will argue that if the information is limited in scope and available from other sources anyway, there can’t be too much harm in it. It all comes down to the extent of the information available. Names and numbers are one thing; photos, home addresses, vital statistics and the school their kids go to is quite another.  Still, the perceived security risk that the website poses has got Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness considering letting his officers use aliases when on duty. 

But why shouldn’t they be rated – it goes on internally to some extent? Regular police officers are hardly operating clandestinely, hold a position of high responsibility and authority and are directly accountable for their actions. What’s more natural, then, for them to be rated by the public they serve? You never know, it might even help members of the public to re-establish a connection with the police and get the local community rallying behind their local bobby. Then again it might just alienate the local constabulary even more than they were before.  The biggest question, though, is whether people would ever care enough to vote.  Unless an officer was spectacularly bad, I can't see anybody taking the time and trouble of rating a name on a website. 

I doubt we’ll have to worry about it; I can’t see the idea taking off in the UK somehow. But, still, you never know.


  1. Who's this website aimed at? Persistent offenders? I doubt they use internet much. Otherwise, who would know police officers by their names?!

  2. There should be some sort of accountability when it comes to rating an officer. People have their own interpretation when it comes to law enforcement and what the laws are.

    Granted, the information is public, but this is just one huge place on where to find it period. Look at all of the lude comments that have negative comments towards police officers. It's insane. It also puts the police officer's family in danger as well.

    Everyone thinks the cops are so terrible and corrupt and out to get them. Then why use them? Why do you call them if you already know that they're not going to do their job? It can't be both ways ya know!


  3. You make a couple of interesting points, Carly.

    You're right about each person having their own standards by which they judge - obviously this is going to produce a lot of differing responses to each police officer. But isn't that a good thing? For each negative, you could argue there would likely be a positive, thus balancing the ratings out.

    As for the lude comments etc. surely it's just a question of proper moderation and monitoring by the hosts of the site. If the lude and abusive comments can be filtered out, I don't really get the problem there. Maybe it should be done almost exclusively by radio buttons with just a couple of opportunities to actually write comments. And if a close eye is kept on those comment boxes, it could still work.

    There's a lot more to be said on this topic and I'm only playing devil's advocate here. Personally, I think the whole idea is a complete farce. As I said in my post, only those who have had a bad experience will likely ever take the time and trouble to rate officers. The public, of course, have a right to an opinion on the police who serve their community, but giving them this rather futile avenue in which to vent their frustrations, doesn't seem the right way to go about it. After all, if there is something genuinely wrong with an officer's performance, rating him or her poorly on a website is hardly the best way to tackle the problem at source.


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