A Strong Case For Sharing Your Great Reputation

Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

Some people who hear about our Copiosis Reputation Accounts freak out. I think they think these accounts sit ripe for corruption. Or maybe they fear such accounts could ruin their opportunities. Or that they’re just unnecessary.

I know some watched the Black Mirror episode satirizing a wholly different way people might rate one another in the dystopian vision they, ah, envision. Or they think about China’s reputation system, which is nothing like Copiosis’.

Our reputation accounts aren’t like that. Nor do I think anyone need fear them. We plan on monitoring how these accounts work in real time because we want to ensure they work the way we intend them. I also strongly believe they are necessary.

Why they are needed

In this post, I want so share a true story. I’ll follow this one with another story in the next post. To me, these stories detail why these accounts are vital. Without them, not-so-well-meaning people could dupe others into following bogus ideas and misinformation, both of which today cause a lot of societal, structural and cultural problems. Such misinformation costs people a LOT of money, time and years of their lives.

Radical transparency and Sousveillance play a key role in the social monitoring that happens in Copiosis. The power of both rests with individual persons. In Copiosis there’s no state actor or authority enforcing laws and edicts or political policies. There’s no domineering state entity telling others what they can and can’t do. Instead, we all police ourselves. If you’ve never heard of Sousveillance before, you might want to look it up.

This graphic distinguishes differences between surveillance(Camera A) and sousveillance (camera B). (Graphic By Psiĥedelisto – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

And so, in a world where we literally rely on one another to police ourselves, one’s track record – for honesty, integrity, consistency and such – helps us know whether each of us can count on one another. That’s what Copiosis Reputation Accounts are about.

I know some simply don’t like the name “Reputation Account”. We’re working on that. For now, just ignore the name and let’s look at its function.

How these accounts function offers opportunities to share the best of ourselves with others so that we may amplify that “best” and therefore find more of that happening in the world. But again, that “best” can’t be relied upon if we don’t know the character of those we live among.

No one is perfect

And while we’re sharing all the good stuff we do, we must get over this idea that people’s foibles, maladaptive behaviors, or stupid decisions made one-time, or many times, equate to the person themselves being “bad” or, worse, “evil”.

Everyone makes stupid or misinformed decisions. Often repeatedly. And since everyone lives in a global culture which fosters such decision making, humanity must learn to give its individual members a freaking break. Like Jesus has said, sometimes people don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

I know he didn’t say it that way. 😂

Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Company, widely accused of records of numbers of sexual harassment. But not before netting somewhere between $2- and $300 million in personal wealth. He had problems, but that doesn’t make the man evil. Just problem-ridden.

So these accounts serve many, many, useful functions. In this post, we’re focusing on one: getting all the information out so people can make educated choices about who they want in their communities.

Now, on to the story…

Is it racist? Does it matter?

The first story comes from This American Life, a podcast about, well, life in America. It’s told over two episodes. The first one sets up the story. The second details what happens next.

A multiracial married couple, in the market to buy a home, tours an ideal property for sale in Michigan. The house is very lightly furnished. It’s not staged as is the custom these days in many US real estate markets. Instead, what’s in the house seems to be current owner furnishings. When the husband, who is African American, walks into the garage it is festooned with confederate flags.

Later, he, his Latina wife and their two kids go upstairs. Again no furniture anywhere. But in one room, which the husband enters first, a picture frame hangs on the wall. In the frame is an application from the 1920s to join the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

For those unfamiliar with it, the Ku Klux Klan or the Klan or Clan is a domestic, white supremacist terror group. Its notorious origins owe themselves to white insecurity and the perceived need to persecute African Americans, primarily, although the Klan today pretty much fears and thus hates anyone who isn’t “white”, whatever that is.

Anyhow, the couple, rightfully incensed, posted what they saw on Facebook, only to discover the house’s owner also was a police offer in the local police department.

Chaos ensues.

The framed application (From the city report)

Enter city officials

What happens next is why I’m sharing this story. The couple, Rob and Reyna Mathis, get all manner of replies from their post, as you can imagine. The media covers the dust-up, which launches a city government investigation. The police chief leads much of that investigation. That police chief, a man named Jeff Lewis, has held that post for over 10 years. Both he and the City Manager, Frank Peterson, immediately confer once the shit hits the fan. Here’s what Frank said was their mutual consensus:

We thought maybe he was racist. Like, the idea of that it was racist wasn’t even in our mind at this point. It was like, I mean, for lack of a better term, just like, how could you be so dumb? You know how could– how could you be so dumb to put yourself and this community in this position?

Like, why is that there? And why are you inviting people into your house to see it? Of all the things that we have to do around here, of all the things that– all the trouble I could get into with decisions I make or don’t make, the biggest decision that we had to make now was something that had absolutely– at the end of the day, had absolutely nothing to do with us. It was something he did off-hours at home. What the heck? You know, just a bonehead decision.

Right. Why would someone leave something like that hanging in a house they put up for sale? Occam’s Razor offers some insight. But a lot happened next that makes this story far more complicated than the simple explanation.

It gets real

The police chief immediately put the officer, Charles Anderson, who, at the time, was a 21-year department veteran, on leave. Then after a lengthy but swift investigation, he wanted to fire Anderson.

But the police union made that near impossible. Even though it was obvious, looking at Anderson’s work record, that he had unusual encounters with black people. Again, the police chief described it this way:

A lot of people were saying, wait a minute, I know that person. He dealt– he treated me this way. He called me this. That’s when it became kind of real to me. It was, holy smokes, this officer, over the last 15 years, he could have interacted with 5,000 people, 5,000 different interactions. And were three of them bad, and we just happened to hear about them finally? Or were 30% of them, you know, bad?

You know, it really helped you see the scope, right, of how difficult it was going to be to validate or invalidate the concerns that people had, that maybe they weren’t high enough– a high enough level of mistreatment to where they resulted in a formal complaint, but they were obviously happening, or appeared that they were obviously happening.

So as the dust-up continued, as you can imagine, the Mathises starting getting a lot of unwanted attention. They got death threats. Their children were followed by strangers in cars. Rob and Reyna got mail with photos of their home and notes telling them “we know where you live.”

The shit was getting real. Kinda.

Text from Rob Mathis’ Facebook posting (From the city report)

How does THIS happen?

Meanwhile, the city continued its investigation. They discovered this officer had problems and run-ins that, in hindsight, tell a clear story. Listen to the podcast for details, but the chief describes it very well in one segment:

If you look at the national average– I’ve been a police officer for 40 years and involved in NO shootings. The vast majority of police officers go through their career and never shoot anyone. I don’t think the public knows that. I couldn’t even find a statistic or a department [study about] this, and [this officer is] involved in THREE shootings.

I mean, either you have the worst luck or something’s going on here. And then when you looked at his history, there was a progressive, I guess, glaring performance with him when it came to dealing with African-Americans especially. In other words, he seemed to have a lot of problems with African-Americans through his career.

Just a reminder, Jeff Lewis, the police chief, is white. He goes on…

His whole career, things would happen and he would kind of come out the other side. And I’m not sure why. I mean, you’d have to go back and look at every incident.

I’ve had officers get in car accidents. And let’s say you have an officer in five car accidents, and none was his fault. As a chief, you go, OK, it appears it’s not your fault. But why are you in five not-at-fault accidents, when the other 99% of the officers aren’t having this?

What are you doing that you keep getting in accidents and you’re not at fault? We got a big pile of cars you wrecked, but you’re never at fault. Chuck [the officer in question] is one of those kind of things where, when I looked at his past, there’s good things in there. I’m not going to take that away from him.

I started seeing a pattern that he just wasn’t effective with our African-American citizens. He just wasn’t. So what are you going to do?

It’s going to endanger him and my other 79 officers. And matter of fact, I’m not going to be part of this agency if that’s how we’re going to be. I said, I cannot, in good conscience, bring him back here and put him back on the streets of this town.

Lewis wanted to fire Anderson, which he eventually did on technicalities. But the city’s official report, published later read nothing like what the chief discovered. Instead, it offered a glowing story of the officer’s career.

Something strange was happening.

Cue the police union

According to the podcast, the chief faced a legal battle trying to fire Anderson. That’s because the police union enjoyed so much power, as they do everywhere, they blocked nearly any sanction of any officer. That’s what happened here. They were responsible for such a glowing report, which, again, according to the podcast, offered little substantiation what Rob and Reyna and their family experienced, nor did it offer what Police Chief Lewis uncovered.

So when the public found out about the officer being fired (again for technical reasons, not for being racist), then saw the glowing report, a backlash against Rob and Reyna and their family ensued.

Again, no one discovered what the police chief’s official investigation uncovered until this podcast, which ran three years later. Had the chief’s finding become public, this whole matter might have gone differently. But the union didn’t want Anderson’s complete record (his reputation) in the public. So they didn’t contest the chief’s decision to fire Anderson any further when he said he would share publicly what he found.

Statistics show the vast majority of police officers do their jobs with honor. It’s the bad actors who screw it up for the ones doing their jobs upholding the standards to which they swore. (Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash)

The other side of the story

The podcast creators interviewed the officer’s wife who denied her husband was a Klan member. Even so, she didn’t have credible reasons why such a thing got left in the house…during an open house. Given the evidence, and the chief’s discoveries, it seems, despite his wife’s contrary statements, the officer indeed had a problem with black people.

And here’s where Reputation Accounts play a role. These two podcasts act as a kind of reputation account for everyone involved. It’s obvious the officer in question had a history reflecting poorly on his service to the community. But one powerful group (the police union) can keep all that under wraps. In doing so it not only allows a cop with a problem to stay in the community sowing community distrust and discontent, it puts other officers in danger.

The other problem Reputation Accounts can help fix is the following. People will say anything to keep them and their loved ones out of trouble. They will lie like a tiger in the bush stalking gazelles. To them, their lies will feel like truth. Which is why it’s far better observing people’s behavior, rather than relying on what comes out of their mouths. This is what Reputation Accounts allow. A record of observation, from many angles, all verified, much like the reporting in this podcast.

For nearly eight months from January – August 1998 President Bill Clinton denied he had sexual relations with intern Monica Lewinsky. What people say often can’t be trusted. Which is why recording behavior is so crucial to know how people are. (By Clinton White House – https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/items/show/47839, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67620126)

As inclusive as needed

This podcast didn’t make any judgments per se. It just told the story of what happened through the people involved. Of course, there were editorial selections involved, perspectives, narratives, etc. Still, everyone had a chance to contribute.

Charles Anderson refused and while his wife spoke about her husband’s affiliation with the Clan, or lack thereof, she refused to talk about what actually happened with the picture and why it was on the wall during the open house.

It’s now up to listeners to decide.

This is exactly what Reputation Accounts are about: Like this podcast they offer the public information provided from the ground up about what people do. Peers provide that information. It’s all verified by a third party (the Copiosis Organization).

Those offering declarations get NBR for doing so. Then each person reviewing the record could decide for themselves whether the person in question is someone they want to work with. Or someone they want walking around with a gun and badge.

I would suggest Reputation Accounts would function much as the chief describes later in the podcast. He fired the officer because the offer lost the trust of the community and therefore also lost his ability to serve the community.

In the same way, in Copiosis, should an officer lose the trust of the community, evidenced by a poor aggregate score in his declaration account, community individuals could refuse providing necessities, essentially “firing” him from the community. Here we talk briefly what a Reputation Account is and how they work.

Is it right? Is it just?

This of course puts tremendous pressure on police, as well as others serving in the interest of a community. But that’s the job, isn’t it? Police serve at the pleasure of those they police. It’s a tough job and no one should take the job without serious consideration because consequences of the wrong people performing such roles can be catastrophic.

But today, that’s not happening. There are screening processes in many departments. Many of those processes are getting better. Still, today, powerful police unions squash information communities need leaving bad cops who get through those screens on the street. Keeping such officers employed come at dire costs. It’s no wonder less than half of Americans say they have confidence in police these days.

That could change in an economy where police serve at the pleasure of those they police, with those being policed equipped with Sousveillance capabilities and using those abilities to keep police doing their jobs appropriately.

It’s not just police

This equally applies to CEOs, inventors, engineers, psychologists, prison guards and soldiers. All those people who we the people entrust to act on our behalf and expect those doing the acting to uphold certain standards.

For sure, the vast majority of police officers do their jobs with honor. It’s why “All Cops Are Bastards” says more about those shouting such words than it actually does about all cops. Again, very few cops are bad actors. Most act in good faith upholding the standards they swore to.

But when those very few get in, the public needs something to get them out. I think Reputation Accounts combined with the ability to control access to necessities are powerful tools for the public, acting as individuals, to keep themselves free from all bad actors. Not just bad police.

Next week, we’ll examine another story.

Perry Gruber, Founder, Copiosis

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