When a police chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death back in 2014, a bystander caught it all on video. Protests across the nation called for fundamental reforms—and for the punishment of Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who executed the chokehold. Anyone watching the video could see that something was wrong with the officer’s conduct. But no one could see that this officer had been in trouble before. It was not until years later, when an anonymous source leaked Pantaleo’s misconduct records to the press, that the public learned of his troubling history of misconduct — a history that had been addressed by only minimal disciplinary action.
Pantaleo’s secret history of misconduct, and the minimal accountability that resulted, illustrate the need for public access to records of police misconduct.
Recent polling conducted by Data For Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute shows that there is broad support for such public access.