(Washington, DC) The District of Columbia's police accountability agency, the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), today announced that its police misconduct decisions will be published in the online legal databases maintained by LexisNexis and Westlaw. LexisNexis began carrying OPC's decisions online in December while Westlaw will start including the decisions in the spring.
The addition of OPC's decisions to the two largest online legal databases in the United States marks an important step in the development of the agency, making OPC the first and only police oversight agency in the nation to have its decisions published by either LexisNexis or Westlaw.
OPC's decisions are issued by independent complaint examiners, who have been approved by OPC's governing body, the Police Complaints Board (PCB). There are currently 18 complaint examiners, who are distinguished attorneys who live in the District and who work, or have worked, in government, non-profit organizations, the private sector, and academia.
To reach their decisions, complaint examiners review OPC's investigative reports, hold evidentiary hearings when necessary, and apply the rules governing police officer conduct. After the decisions are issued, the agency forwards all sustained decisions to the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) for review and the imposition of discipline.
The inclusion of OPC's decisions in these two online databases presents several opportunities for the agency. The rulings will help educate the public about police misconduct issues affecting the District, which, in turn, will help increase the accountability of both OPC and MPD.
In addition, complaint examiners will now be able to research previous OPC decisions using keywords and search terms. Citizen complainants, subject officers, and their attorneys will also be able to access this information. In the long run, OPC expects this will enhance the consistency of the agency's adjudication of police misconduct complaints.
"The availability of the agency's determinations of cases through the LexisNexis and Westlaw legal databases will lead to the development of a substantial body of police accountability law in the District of Columbia for the first time," according to Philip K. Eure, executive director of OPC. "By facilitating access to OPC's decisions, the public and MPD ultimately benefit."
Both LexisNexis and Westlaw will carry all of OPC's complaint examiner rulings dating back to the agency's first decision in April 2003. These decisions are, and will continue to be available, on the agency's website, policecomplaints.dc.gov.