Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Outrage Over

The creation of a new website,, has outraged police departments across the country. The site allows people to rate their local individual officers, and the police believe that personally identifying them in this way - and not giving them any recourse for defending themselves - may place the officers in danger. Is that outrage unfounded, and is there anything that can, or should be, done about the website?

According to CBS, "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."

Take a look at for yourself, and you be the judge. It certainly appears that only the names of policemen are listed, along with what state and department they are affiliated with. Additionally, most of the ratings people have posted on the site, which are intended to be based on levels of "authority, fairness and satisfaction", seem to be quite positive - highlighting how "awesome" a particular officer had acted.

Because this information is already a matter of public record, there is probably not much that can be done about the website. In cyberspace, available information almost never becomes suddenly unavailable, and its culture of participation encourages this type of behavior. In fact, similar websites have existed for years. I, myself, have had to deal with, where often-disgruntled students have either praised and belittled my teaching skills (viewable here and here).

Of course, the safety of the police officers trumps other issues in this matter. However, so long as only their names are being posted, which are already a matter of public record, then the website is not placing them in any greater danger. In the Internet Age, police departments and other institutions inevitably just have to learn to live with websites like this, as many of the rest of us already have, and try to stay focused on the positive: RateMyCop, by promoting transparency, may actually enhance the public trust in our law enforcement agencies and appeal to people's sense of civic engagement.

Many comments posted on the site, in fact, already bear that out.


At 3:39 PM, Blogger Robert J. Domanski said...

UPDATE: GoDaddy, the company that hosts the RateMyCop website, has decided to pull the plug on it completely. The controversy, as a result, has only further escalated, and will now undoubtedly bring far more attention and traffic to the RateMyCop website - which will be back online within a few hours with a different hosting company.

Here's the story from Wired.


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