Non-profit launches free online database of more than 20 years of police misconduct

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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A non-profit news outlet in Oakland, Calif. has launched a new free online database project from 22 years of public records detailing alleged police misconduct by Oakland PD — one of the most abusive police departments in the nation.

Oakland Police Beat pulls records and statistics from local public court filings and publishes them online for free to highlight the growing number of civil rights violations by the eastern San Francisco bay area law enforcement.

In an email to GIGAOM, website co-founder Abraham Hyatt described the project as “an investigation into one of the most troubled police departments in the nation.” Police Beat publishes stories and interactive graphics twice a week from 1,368 lawsuits and complaints filed against Oakland PD and settled out of court from 1990-2013. Almost 400 of those cases detailed violations of Oakland citizens’ civil rights.

“Oakland’s most decorated officers responsible for high number of brutality lawsuits, shootings,” one infographic reads over a photo of a cop in riot gear choking an unarmed man with an illegal maneuver.

The site was financed by The Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. All of Oakland Police Beat’s content is available for free republication under its Creative Commons license.

Motivation for the production of the site, which began 18 months ago, was born out of incidents that occurred during the city’s Occupy movement protests, and because the department “has long had a reputation as an agency riddled with internal dysfunction and a history of abuse, including corruption, brutality and lack of accountability,” according to Oakland Local founder Susan Mernit. Oakland Local is the non-profit news outlet behind the launch of Oakland Police Beat.

Further inspiration for the site was drawn from a similar site based in Washington, D.C. called Homicide Watch DC, which tracks violent incidents that occur in the nation’s capital.

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