[Originally posted at cre.a.tive, March 12th, 2008 13:55:02]
It’s funny how the internet works. There I was, quietly checking my Google Reader, when I come across this post by Dizzy. Leaving the ‘who said what first’ aside, the idea of ‘crime mapping’ (the possibility of a Google Maps / Police incident report mashup) is a fascinating one. Incidents could appear as markers on maps, just as when we search for restaurants / pubs etc., with its specific details and pleas for evidence just a click away (possibly with a direct email link to the officer overseeing the case). Stacks of paper in casework folders would be revisualised in a simple and clear interface. This isn’t impossible technology; the tools needed are already in our hands.
[In fact, simply the ability to ‘Geotag’ photos (already available on devices such the, soon to be reviewed, GPS-enabled Nokia N95 8GB), is a development that will have a huge impact as its user-base grows, and one which I’ll be exploring in a future post.]
There is a flipside to sharing police force data with the community, though perhaps only for those who are, shall we say, more sceptical about members of the constabulary….
RateMyCop.com is (or more correctly, was) a site where the public rate and comment on police officers in their community. It’s mission, according to the website, being:
>”… to compile information on cops’ performance and to provide a forum where users can freely share individual accounts. Good, bad or indifferent. Most of all, we would like to hear your stories. Your appreciation and your disapproval. Did you witness a cop doing a good deed, or were you involved in an unfortunate altercation? Tell us about it. Tell others about it. Let it out. Don’t feel intimidated by the badge to remain quiet.”
There was uproar from US police forces, who claimed that having their officers names and badge numbers available on the internet placed them in danger. With RateMyCop.com linked to from sites such as reddit.com and digg.com, and with a number of bloggers coming out in support of the project (here for example), it seemed that a new day in police accountability had dawned.
Then this morning (good old Google Reader once again), I find this post, claiming that GoDaddy, the host of RateMyCop.com, had pulled the plug. According to the article the site had been shut down for ‘suspicious activity’.
There lies RateMyCop.com, 28/02/08 – 11/03/08.
There are of course innumerable differences between both the behaviour and the public perception of the police forces of the UK and US, but I do wonder how a UK based ‘RateMyBobby’ would pan out. In my mind, it would go hand-in-hand with the development of ‘crime-mapping’, so those contributing to the safety and security of communities are seen to be more accountable and available to law-abiding citizens.
Accountability for public sector workers, from those walking their beat in some of most deprived areas in the country, to those sipping fine wines in the corridors of power, is one of the ever-growing powder kegs in British politics. Whether or not the internet and digital technologies will be used to light the fuse remains to be seen.