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Pulitzer Center Update April 22, 2021

Grantees Discuss Their Investigation Into Concealed Police Misconduct

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Blue, black, and white illustration of the silhouettes of three police officers standing next to each other. The background is a collage of redacted documents.

Maine’s two largest, competing newspapers joined together to document how the state’s biggest police...

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Illustration of the outlines of police officers. One officer's face is filled in with text from official documents.
Two criminal justice experts reviewed the misconduct uncovered by the newspapers and concluded that many of the punishments were too light for the Maine State Police officers’ misdeeds. Photo illustration by Coralie Cross/BDN. United States.

Grantees Callie Ferguson, Erin Rhoda, and Matt Byrne were interviewed by Maine Public about their Pulitzer Center-supported project, Misconduct Concealed. The project, a collaboration between the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald, documents how the state’s biggest police force obscures the misconduct of its troopers from public view.

The journalists described how they became aware of this story and what they found in their investigation. Rhoda explained that when they sent their findings of punishments for officer misconduct to criminal justice experts, the experts said the punishments were minimal.

“One went so far as to say the discipline was so light, it almost seemed to encourage misconduct,” Rhoda said in the interview. “Even severe misconduct can be left out of public records entirely and, therefore, out of the public eye.”

Without proper documentation of misconduct, it becomes more difficult to hold officers accountable for their actions and enact policy changes to address structural problems.

“Something that we tried to explore is the way in which transparency and the willingness to be forthcoming about mistakes builds public trust, which is extremely important for members of the public to have in police officers, because they have so much power,” Ferguson said in the interview. “I think especially that's true at a time like now, when we are looking a lot more critically about how police exercise that power.”


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