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Back then, you made your case in person. Today, you can file a complaint online.
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The Web site RateMyCop.com cataloged police officers from around the United States and invited users to post evaluations. Citing overly heavy use, its host pulled the plug last week. Despite failed efforts to find another host, co-founder Gino Sesto says his project may return even stronger.
Sesto says he got the idea for Rate My Cop over dinner with a friend. They were discussing experiences they'd had with police, and after a half-hour of eating and talking, they realized there was no forum for sharing and comparing user experiences.
"Virtually every other service provider has forums for people to give feedback," he says. "[Police] are people who work for us."
With the idea of creating a comprehensive nationwide database, Sesto contacted 1,000 police departments around the country with requests for information about their members.
"We were very clear what we were going to do," he says. "We told them we did not want undercover officers on the list."
Police departments initially cooperated, he says, helping fill an online index that included uniformed officers' names and ID numbers, but no personal information such as home addresses or phone numbers. Sesto says the posted information was identical to what appears on parking tickets on windshields all over America.
Some police initially praised the site, Sesto says. He cites one officer who carried Rate My Cop calling cards to encourage people to post ratings. But another officer said the site looked like "a shopping center for cop killers."
Before all the attention, Rate My Cop was hosted by the service provider GoDaddy.com. After Sesto's site was pulled, Go Daddy released a statement saying the situation was "absolutely not about censorship. ... RateMyCop.com was far exceeding the server usage for which it had contracted."
Sesto, however, says the Go Daddy representative he contacted first told him his account had been "suspended due to suspicious activity." Sesto attempted to move the site to another service provider, but he says that host denied him service as well.
Sesto says he's frustrated. "Police people do fantastic work every day, and I want people to be able to praise them for that," he says. He had imagined officers working in tense neighborhoods using the forum to boost their reputation and highlight positive developments.
Meanwhile, Sesto says, he has been contacted by supporters in other countries who want to see RateMyCop.com franchises around the world. Sesto is also considering databases for rating other public officials, such as county commissioners.
"The information is there," he says. "Why don't we do that?"