At Reason, Ed Krayewski makes the case:
There’s a moral obligation to keep bad cops off the streets. A job with a police department is not a right and shouldn’t be treated like one. Police unions that push for permissive rules that end up protecting bad cops pose a serious public safety threat. Nevertheless, dismantling them where they’ve taken root is a difficult prospect even in the long-term. There are other ways to keep bad cops off the streets. The federal government, and state governments, ought to create and encourage the use of a police offender registry list. Such a list would register individuals who while employed as law enforcement officers were found unfit for duty or faced serious disciplinary issues they may have resigned to avoid. Just as any other component of comprehensive police reform, this won’t eliminate excessive police violence, but it’s a start.
I think this is a good idea. A cop’s professional history should follow him, at least if he wants to continue a career in law enforcement. Any registry should, of course, note when complaints were determined to be without merit. But those complaints should also be included. And the whole thing should be open and searchable.
The Justice Department couldn’t compel police agencies to comply (although it would be interesting to hear arguments as to why they wouldn’t want to), but I don’t see any reason that it couldn’t attach the requirement to comply to federal funding. A registry wouldn’t prevent police agencies from hiring cops with a history, but it would attach some liability to doing so. They’d no longer have plausible deniability in civil cases, for example.
Barring a federal registry, this would still seem like a worthy project for a civil liberties or social justice organization to take on.