Sunday, May 31, 2020

Implementing a Police Complaint data-base

A couple of thoughts occurred to me after writing the last post.

There are two basic approaches to the task. The beautiful thing is that they are not mutually exclusive.

The most elegant approach would be to engage the private sector and have them develop a composite-risk index.

Why the private sector? Because that is where the coding and actuarial expertise lives.

If the task was given to the public sector, it would probably end up living at the Michigan State Police unit that consolidates and up-loads Uniform Crime Reporting to the FBI. Writing software is not something they are staffed to do.

The private sector, on the other hand, has many actuarial experts who could rough out the code while taking their morning shower.

How might it work?
The way to improve performance is to re-organize the system so the people who have their hand on the switch have skin-in-the-game.

Visualize a police force where every policeman is required to personally purchase "indemnification insurance" or liability insurance.  The raw statistics of every policeman are fed to the insurance companies: Training level, years in law-enforcement, physical fitness scores, precincts worked and number of complaints.

 As a sub-set, the complaint history would have a thumbnail of who made the complaint; did they leave valid identification information, how many other complaints has that person made and perhaps a scan of the actual complaint. After all, it is a valid concern that a prolific complainer could poison many otherwise sterling law enforcement careers.

For the sake of argument, suppose the average premium for indemnification insurance is $3000 a month for a rookie, $2000 a month for a second year law officer and $1000 a month for law enforcement officer with more than two years experience.

The police force can pick some level of the average...let's say 120% that they are willing to supplement the premiums. So, for the rookie, they would be willing to kick in up to $3600 a month. Anything over that amount, the rookie must pay out of his own pocket. THAT is the skin.

Suppose we have a veteran police officer with 18 complaints against him. It is reasonable to assume his premiums might be $10,000 a month because he is a lawsuit waiting to happen. If he wanted to stay in law enforcement then he would have to cough up $8,800 a month out of his own pocket. At that point, it is not a job, it is a super-expensive hobby.

The officer's supervisor does not need to run the gauntlet required to fire a union employee with seniority. The "bad" officer fires himself because he cannot afford to work in law enforcement.

The nail that sticks up gets pounded down. Or, in this case, the nail that sticks up does not get unduly subsidized by the police force to the detriment of his fellow officers.

Back to implementing the reporting in the public sector
Good software is not easy to write.

Legislature should invite experts to testify regarding the scope of the project. Some of those experts should come from the Michigan State Police since they will have to staff the effort afterward.

How long would it take to hammer together a pilot project?

How much money will it take?

What deliverables will serve both the public-facing reporting function and efficiently populate insurance company risk calculations?

It is my belief that the effort would not die-in-the-dark if report-outs to legislature and implementation dates were scheduled for May 25, the date George Floyd died. It also happens to be about six months before state-wide elections. Legislators and governors who deep-sixed the efforts would find themselves held accountable at the ballot box.

Marching and yelling accomplishes little. Minor changes to the system can be huge if they put some of the pain in the right places and are enshrined in law.


  1. This will work until the first minority rookie gets his premium jacked to the sky. That looks like an immediate disparate impact lawsuit in the making.

    Better to jack up the group rate for the entire force, giving the old-timers a money incentive to clean out bad actors early.

    1. Same argument applies to group rate and self-policing. The first time a minority gets leaned on to clean up his act, there will be law suits.

      The insurance company doesn't care about the color of your skin, just the color of your money. You are either a low risk or a high risk. Numbers are color-blind.


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