In May of last year, Laurence Du Sault and Katey Rusch stood hunched over a single desk in a records room in a courthouse in Lancaster, California, carefully parsing and then photocopying court files they had pulled on numerous police officers convicted of crimes. No chairs and no breaks, they had already overstayed the window during which they were supposed to have access to the files. When their visit was complete—one of dozens of trips to courthouses they had made that spring and summer—they left with copies of pages from 13 case files.
The pair, both graduate students at the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, were among the dozens of reporters from six media organizations working on a mammoth investigation exploring how often police officers in California are convicted of crimes and what happens to them when they are. The findings of the six-months-long investigation, which was anchored by Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) and the Bay Area News Group, were published in mid-November. The searchable database produced by the effort is the most robust examination of criminal misconduct by police officers in California ever published in the state.