The 2015 US Department of Justice's report into the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department cited a "toxic environment" that was not serving in the best interest of the community surrounding the events of the Michael Brown tragedy.
Decent law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day. These civil servants also deal with a negative public opinion caused by the misconduct of a disparate few that are amplified to a point that decays the integrity and goodwill of their role as a whole.
Internal Affairs divisions are the instrument of oversight that is supposed to identify and correct the wrongdoings of law enforcement. Unfortunately, IADs have to largely rely on officers reporting their peers; an action that the public became most familiar with in the 1970's when Frank Serpico reported corruption in the New York Police Department.
Reporting another officer about corruption, abuse of authority, or behavior is commonly believed to be accompanied by harassment, abuse, or even threats of violence. In situations such as this, the suppression of someone wanting to do the right thing is going to be a regular occurrence.
I propose building a system that incorporates open source hardware and software technologies that will allow an officer that is looking to do the right thing to report a tip to officials within their department securely and anonymously. The idea is to give Internal Affairs something that may help them identify patterns and situations that they need to investigate more closely.
My vision is to:
Create an open source hardware device that displays a website address and an easy to remember passphrase in an open area of a law enforcement office only accessible to other law enforcement officers (the passphrase rotates to prevent fraudulent reporting and should be easy to remember so that it doesn't have to be written down).
Officers can then use a computer to access the website address, and enter the passphrase. This generates a form that can be filled out to provide as much information as the officer wishes.
Once a form has been filled out, Internal Affairs is notified and retrieves the information, either choosing to investigate the matter, storing it with similar reports to establish a pattern, or determining the validity of the information provided.
Due to the anonymity of the report, the veracity of the information will require Internal Affairs to gather their own evidence and build their case independent of the tip. The tool's purpose is to provide a "scent", not a "catch."
I believe that such a tool will allow for more effective policing of one's peers in law enforcement. The prominence of such a device in a police station will serve as a reminder beacon to any officer to think twice before committing a villainous act that would denigrate the badge and laws they are sworn to protect.
This will not solve all of our problems, but if even one more whistleblower can step forward with information that allows the authorities to take action wherever appropriate, then a project like this has served a wonderful purpose.