OpenTheGovernment.org: Supreme Court View of Faulty Police Records is “Unreasonable”


 

Press Release
Contact: Amy Fuller or Patrice McDermott, 202-332-6736

 

Supreme Court View of Faulty Police Records is "Unreasonable"

WASHINGTON, January 14, 2008 – In response to the recent 5-4 Supreme Court opinion in Herring v United States, OpenTheGovernment.org expresses disappointment that the majority failed to ensure government’s responsibility for the accuracy of police databases.

The majority of the Court found that when errors in criminal justice databases are not the result of "systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements," false information in a police database can be used as evidence for an arrest. As pointed out in Amicus Curiae Brief for Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) et al., which OpenTheGovernment.org joined, the use and sharing of databases by law enforcement officials has grown exponentially in the last few years. Numerous government reports document that these databases are insufficiently monitored and the information they contain is frequently out of date. OpenTheGovernment.org maintains that to permit a good faith reliance on data that is inaccurate, incomplete, or out of date will exacerbate the problem and increase the likelihood of unfair treatment in the criminal justice system. We agree with Justice Ginsberg, who wrote in the dissent, "the court’s opinion underestimates the need for a forceful exclusionary rule and the gravity of recordkeeping errors in the law enforcement."

According to Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, "Given the increase in the breadth and influence of electronic databases used by the criminal justice system, requiring law enforcement personnel to keep accurate records is perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, the Court’s failure to ensure law enforcement has an accuracy obligation threatens civil liberties by undermining the right against unreasonable search and seizure."

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OpenTheGovernment.org is a coalition transcending party lines of more than 70 consumer and good government groups, librarians, environmentalists, labor, journalists, and others focused on pushing back governmental secrecy and promoting openness.

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