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Michigan Keeps Police Identities Secret, Allowing ‘Wandering Cops’

The state of Michigan is keeping the identities of police officers a secret, making it impossible for the public to monitor “wandering cops” who leave one agency after alleged misconduct and move to another law enforcement job, Michigan Advance reports. The Michigan State Police declined a Freedom of Information Act request from Metro Times and the Invisible Institute seeking the identities of all certified and uncertified officers, saying “the public disclosure of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy.” The agency argued that releasing the names of officers “would endanger the life and safety of the law enforcement officers and their families, because the information would lead to [their] doxing.” Michigan is one of 15 states that denied access to the information, while 36 have disclosed at least some portion of certification data, in response to requests made by a national coalition of news organizations.

Isaiah McKinnon, a retired Detroit police chief, said the public’s access to information on wandering cops is essential to reducing the ability of abusive officers to find work at another law enforcement agency. In Michigan, like many states, there are no laws requiring police departments to disclose information about much of an officer’s misconduct to another law enforcement agency. Without reporting requirements, agencies are at risk of unknowingly hiring officers who left their previous job under questionable circumstances. The consequences can be deadly. A Detroit Free Press investigation published in July 2017 found about two dozen problematic officers who “jumped from department to department in recent years.” Some of them were fired and criminally charged, only to find work at another law enforcement agency. “It would be difficult, but there’s got to be some way for that information to be supplied to the people of their respective communities,” McKinnon said. “We should know if an officer has a lot of complaints. It’s really important for the community to know about that because of safety and the potential for a lawsuit."


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