by Jo Ellen Nott
The LEWIS Registry, the first crowd-sourced public database for police resignations or terminations due to misconduct, honors the legendary civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis who was a victim of police brutality and whose name it bears. The catalog is an effort of the University of Southern California Safe Communities Institute (“SCI”) to provide a comprehensive list of police officers who have not lived up to their pledge to serve and protect the communities that hired them.
The pilot version was launched on May 24, 2021, with the intention of providing an interactive beta version later in the year. The backend of the LEWIS Registry is intended for use by law enforcement as a component of applicant screening before hiring a police officer. “There are privacy regulations regarding police departments that allow an officer to go from one to another without saying he or she has been fired and no one will find out,” according to Erroll G. Southers, director of the SCI. The LEWIS Registry pulls from public and open-source data so that Safe Communities Institute will not violate any of those rules, regulations, or laws.
The registry information comes from official department statements, court records, police notices, news reports, and other open sources. The front end will be searchable and open to the public, allowing the community to see if an officer has been previously fired or resigned due to misconduct. The registry will also be a useful tool for researching trends and patterns of police misconduct, which in turn will help criminologists and public policy groups find new solutions for reforming and improving law enforcement practices.
The LEWIS Registry is much needed in this political climate that has the public crying out both Black and Blue Lives Matter and calls to defund the police are met with calls to increase funding to better vet academy candidates and provide better training. The registry contains important information on cases of excessive use of force, corruption, domestic violence, sexual assault, physical assault, harassment, perjury, hate group affiliation, or falsifying a police report.
Both U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, Democrat from California’s 37th District, and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger support the LEWIS Registry, pointing out its unique capacity to provide transparency in law enforcement and identify the best-qualified individuals to protect and serve in crucial positions of public trust.
Sources: priceschool.usc.edu, bedrosian.usc.edu
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