'Rate my Cop' website causes a stir
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.