BOSTON — A new state database listing complaints against Massachusetts police officers will soon go live for the public.
The new Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission originally hoped to launch the site this Friday, but it was delayed for several weeks.
The database is a key requirement of the Criminal Justice Act which was passed after protests denouncing police brutality swept the country.
The data will be accessible from 446 agencies across Massachusetts, including local police departments, state police, college and university police, and hospital police.
“We believe that making these documents available will go a long way to building public confidence,” said Enrique Zuniga, executive director of the POST Commission.
Zuniga said there had been a series of challenges in compiling all the data from the departments in a short time.
“It is important that this data is solid and that it is validated one last time by the agencies,” Zuniga explained.
The new state commission on policing standards compiles all complaints filed against active officers, including those that were unfounded.
“We will start with what has been decided – suspension, dismissal or resignation to avoid discipline,” Zuniga said. “We had to collect them for active agents and for agents who had transferred to another agency.”
Some law enforcement officials told Boston 25 News they fear some of the information included in the database could easily be misinterpreted.
“Some of them are unsupported, unsubstantiated where the officer was exonerated, but their names will still be in the database,” Upton Police Department Chief Michael Bradley said. “If they don’t look at the totality of the circumstances, they may think there is something wrong with this officer.”
Chief Bradley, who is president of the Mass Chiefs of Police Association, said he fully supports transparency but fears the database could deter new recruits from signing up.
It is being launched at a time when veteran officers are leaving in record numbers and few new applications are arriving.
“When someone who is considering this position knows that their name will appear in a public database for a minor infraction, it can certainly deter them from taking this career,” Chief Bradley explained.
Zuniga said he was following a state directive and stresses that all information compiled is considered public records.
He told Boston 25 News that he was still awaiting records from five departments.
“We have asked those requesting these public records to be patient with us,” Zuniga added. “We worked very hard to make sure that this is the data that was validated.”
Local Massachusetts police departments are only required to keep complaint records for seven years after an investigation is complete.
However, some have records that go back much further.
Currently, the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission does not plan to include complaints filed against officers who have retired.
Active complaints that are still under investigation will also not appear in the database.
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