At least 85,000 law enforcement officers across the country have been investigated or disciplined for misconduct over the past decade, a USA TODAY Network investigation found. Despite their role as public servants, the men and women who swear an oath to keep communities safe can generally avoid public scrutiny for their misdeeds. The records of their misconduct are filed away, rarely seen by anyone outside their departments.
Police unions and their political allies have worked to put special protections in place ensuring some records are shielded from public view, or even destroyed. Reporters from USA Today, its 100-plus affiliated newsrooms, and the nonprofit Invisible Institute in Chicago have spent more than a year creating the biggest collection of police misconduct records. USA Today plans to publish many of those records to give the public an opportunity to examine their police department and the broader issue of police misconduct, as well as to help identify de-certified officers who continue to work in law enforcement.