In many states, officers will quit a department before they are fired or while they are under investigation for misconduct and take a job elsewhere, effectively wiping their own slate clean and starting over. In certain cases, this can endanger a new community because a bad officer simply moved jurisdictions. One tragic example: the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio resigned from another department that was about to terminate him for his ineptitude with firearms.
USA Today’s Jonathan Anderson has a report today about the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s laudable efforts to reduce the likelihood of hiring problem officers.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice earlier this year began requiring law enforcement agencies to report when officers resign amid an internal investigation, quit in lieu of termination or are fired for cause.
The Justice Department will warn agencies about the officers should they seek employment elsewhere, according to Christopher Domagalski, chairman of the state Law Enforcement Standards Board, which oversees training and certification of police officers in the state.
“What we’re trying to do is eliminate the opportunity for somebody to slip through the cracks,” said Domagalski, who also is chief of the Sheboygan Police Department.
The change is aimed at identifying officers who switch jobs or hop around to different agencies after committing or being accused of wrongdoing.
As a professor notes later in the piece, this is a “good start” but not sufficient to completely eliminate the practice because, like many states, Wisconsin cannot decertify an officer unless the officer has been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors like domestic violence.
Nevertheless, it is heartening to see state officials taking police misconduct seriously.
You can read the whole report here.