Excellent Local Investigative Reporting

Take a look at this investigation by the Sarasota Herald Tribune in Sarasota, Florida. The small paper uncovered a broken police review system that allows bad cops, even those with repeated complaints in their files about violence, to stay on the job.

I especially appreciate how the stories rely on public records, rather than unnamed sources, to prove the cases.

 

From IRE.org (an investigative journalism organization):

It was an unbelievable record for anyone, let alone a public employee. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that one Opa-Locka, Fla., officer had been:

“Fired five times and arrested three, he was charged with stealing a car, trying to board an airplane with a loaded gun and driving with a suspended license.…(He) split a man’s lip with a head butt. He opened another man’s head with a leg sweep and takedown. He spit in the face of a drunken, stumbling arrestee. One time, he smacked a juvenile so hard the boy’s face was red and swollen the next day.”

Still, the officer kept his badge.

The story lead off “Unfit for Duty,” a nine-part series, reported by investigations editor Matthew Doig and police reporter Anthony Cormier. The series chronicled how law enforcement agencies throughout the state continued to employ officers with severe misconduct charges. The two did dozens of interviews and gathered more than 12,000 pages of documents for the series. The first step in their reporting was to analyze Florida’s police misconduct database, which the state keeps in a Microsoft Access database. Doig and Cormier got the data through a public records request. They weren’t charged for the data and Doig called it “some of the cleanest data” he has ever worked with. They requested the data twice, first in March when their reporting started and again shortly before publication to have the most up-to-date information in the newspaper’s searchable online database.

Doig explained during an interview with IRE the thought process behind the series and the techniques he and Cormier used to report it out.

 

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