Explosive Investigative Reporting Program-led series exposing police officers with criminal records is launched

November 10, 2019

Related story by recent graduate airs on Reveal nationwide

Illustration: Nikka Singh (’19) for Reveal

A six-month investigation involving more than 30 newsrooms across California, led by Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program (IRP), has found hundreds of criminal convictions against current and former police officers, dozens of them still on the job.

What began as a simple story triggered by explosive data revealed in a routine Public Records Act request to The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training has led to one of the largest statewide journalistic collaborations in recent memory. Joining the series’ main reporter, the IRP’s Robert Lewis (’08), and a dozen Berkeley alums and students have been California-based reporters from McClatchy, the USA Today Network, MediaNews Group, the Voice of San Diego and others. The reporters descended on their local courthouses to source original records, following warnings from California’s Attorney General about the legality of IRP reporting on these records publicly.

“We couldn’t be prouder of this investigation and of the unprecedented collaboration that enabled it to happen,” said David Barstow, the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism, who leads the IRP.

The first installment of the series, “The Secret List of Convicted Cops,” aired nationwide on Reveal Nov. 9, followed by the thesis project of Berkeley Journalism alum Nikka Singh (’19) of Snap Judgment. The disturbing story follows an officer in the Bay Area who, while never convicted of a crime, has been able to stay employed at a series of police departments, despite repeated allegations of serious misconduct in Oakland, including choking a handcuffed suspect and putting an empty gun to his own head in front of new recruits.

Additional stories began running Nov. 10 in the San Jose Mercury News and other news outlets.

“This project would not have been possible without the intelligence, good humor and sheer doggedness with which students Katey Rusch, Laurence Du Sault and Ali DeFazio [all Class of ’20] approach their reporting,” said reporter Robert Lewis. “Ali was a rock–poring over court files, tracking down legislative records in obscure archival collections, and making sure our data was accurate. Katey and Laurence found an amazing story in the Central Valley and pursued it aggressively. Their ability to ferret out records, develop sources and craft a narrative produced a fantastic piece of journalism that will hopefully provoke some serious questions not just in Kern County but statewide.”

In addition to the series’ principal reporters, Jason Paladino (’15), Continuing Lecturer Jeremy Rue (’07) and Andrew Beale (‘18) worked on the series’ data team; former IRP Director John Temple and Emeritus Prof. Lowell Bergman also provided reporting and editorial oversight. Second-year students Edward Booth, Brian Perlman, and Eric Murphy provided research, as did alums Loi Ameera Almeron (‘16) and Erin Stone (‘19). Zach Stauffer (’08) was part of the series’ visuals team.

Nikka Singh’s story was produced with support of his Berkeley Journalism thesis advisor, Lecturer Jenn Kahn, as well as Lecturers Peter Aldhous, Mary Kay Magistad and Tom Peele, with additional support from Amy Mostafa (’20).

Special thanks to the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation and the Fund for Investigative Journalism for supporting this investigation.

Dean's Newsletter

Quarterly Newsletter From Dean Geeta Anand

Spring 2024 Dear Berkeley Journalism community: With great optimism about the future of our school, I share with you news of the largest gift in the history of Berkeley Journalism:…