RateMyCop.com lets citizens rate and review police officers. Some Texas prosecutors don’t like the idea. I think it’s great. Police have a troubled history of policiing themselves. More information helps everyone. RMC could prevent future Tulias from happening.
Here is an interview with founder Gino Sesto.
Gino Sesto. 37yrs old, living in Culver City, CA. 15+ year Advertising background.
2. How did RMC get started?
Having a dinner with a good friend 7 or 8 months ago, and the topic turned to traffic tickets. We spoke about our experiences for at least a half hour. It dawned on me the next day that there is a website here. People all have experiences with officers, both good and bad. The best part is they remember them like it happened just yesterday. After doing some research and realizing I could get lists of names from the departments themselves we decided to make the site. We mailed over 1,000 requests to departments around the country and received over 500 back. I learned that over 40,000,000 traffic tickets are given out every year. On each traffic ticket there is a line for the officer to fill out. His/Her name and id number. Aha! That’s what we need. People keep those tickets for at least 6 months, so the data is there, and certainly the users are there. Everyone has an opinion on those tickets, and they usually tell all their immediate friends about the ticket.
3. Would RMC be possible without open records laws?
Absolutely, the open record laws only allowed us to seed the “kitty”. Without the 140k names that we have now, the press wouldn’t have bothered with us, but eventually the users would have grown the database to that point. Just 5 days ago we launched the ability for users to add to our database, and we have already had over 400 names submitted. Getting the names from the police departments only got the website to grow faster than it would have without the names
4. What has been the reaction to RMC?
Citizens mostly think it’s great. Police mostly have no opinion. The majority of police understand they are public officials and realize they are open to public criticism. There are a few outspoken figureheads of unions that are complaining and threatening legislation (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/12/IN8E101TR1.DTL). A lot of officers have come to the site and haven’t left. They are so into the fact they can talk about their jobs to ordinary citizens and answer their questions. They love their jobs. It’s great. In just about 40 days we almost have 8000 posts in the forums. It’s extremely active. As a police officer is one of the most active forums. Also, I would say that about 50% of the sites visitors are police officers. (http://www.ratemycop.com/index.php?option=com_poll&task=results&id=20)
Initially I think there was a lot of concern from officers on what was going to be posted. They were afraid that personal info was going to be put out there. We are fearful of that as well, and we have and will delete immediately any of this kind of info if it is posted. Now that the fear of the unknown is gone a lot of the knee jerk reaction is over. However, there are still a select few who want to be completely out of public scrutiny and think a police state would be fantastic.
5. Can the police police themselves?
Personally, on the surface it’s a tough concept for me to swallow. I think many departments split up the responsibilities with IAB well, and have no issues. The smaller departments that don’t have the ability for an IAB, usually use outside agencies to scrutinize their operations. However, with recent news coming out of Orange County Sheriff’s Office in California and their recent cover up of a death in their jailing system I have doubts. I think the system does allow for the possibilities of rogue cops.
6. What is the future for RMC? Rate My Judge, or Rate My Prosecutor?
The immediate future is to stabilize the website and add features here and there. Long term we are going to add Canada, and possibly UK. We have had hundreds of requests for this asap. Yes, RateMyJudge is the natural branch off of this as well. We want to create a community of activism. Too long have the American population sat around and complain and not do anything. Ask around, how many people even know who the chief of police is in your city. Not very many. With that we want to enlist the users of the site to help us complete the database of the 18,000 police departments in the country. Obviously people get hired and fired every day, so it’s a daunting task to try and complete that.
7. Anything else.
I get the question a lot about fear for my safety. I initially was a little worried, but I have gotten over that. I think the majority of officers are doing a great job and the few that aren’t won’t bother me.