A 50-state look at officer decertification for sex incidents

Roger Goldman, a professor emeritus at Saint Louis University School of Law is shown in this image from video taken Oct. 14, 2015 in St. Louis. Police standards agencies in 44 states can revoke the licenses of problem officers, which should prevent a bad cop from moving on to police work elsewhere. But the process is flawed, said Goldman, who has studied decertification for three decades. (AP Photo/Fritz Faerber)
Roger Goldman, a professor emeritus at Saint Louis University School of Law is shown in this image from video taken Oct. 14, 2015 in St. Louis. Police standards agencies in 44 states can revoke the licenses of problem officers, which should prevent a bad cop from moving on to police work elsewhere. But the process is flawed, said Goldman, who has studied decertification for three decades. (AP Photo/Fritz Faerber)

An Associated Press investigation into sexual misconduct by law enforcement officers in the U.S. identified some 1,000 in six years who lost their licenses for sexual assault or other sex offenses or misconduct, including possession of child pornography, voyeurism and sex on duty. The findings are based on an analysis of state records for an administrative process called decertification, but the AP found that policies regarding decertification vary widely from state to state. Forty-one states provided information, three did not, and six states and the District of Columbia said they did not decertify officers for misconduct.

Here is a summary of state actions from 2009 through 2014, including AP’s tally of sex-related decertifications. The numbers do not reflect the full scope of the problem because not all incidents get reported; some states, for example, reported no officers removed for sexual misdeeds, even though the AP identified cases in court records or news reports.

In determining whether a decertification was sex-related, the AP relied mostly on the reason a state provided, but cause was not always clear. Some states gave no reason for a revoked license, or used terms such as “conduct unbecoming an officer” or “voluntary surrender” for officers the AP determined, through additional reporting, had committed sex-related crimes or misconduct.

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—ALABAMA: The state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission decertified 123 officers, 20 for sex-related misconduct. Alabama requires local law enforcement agencies to report any officer’s arrest. Convictions or lying to the commission can result in decertification.

—ALASKA: The Alaska Police Standards Council decertified 52 officers, two for sex-related misconduct. Any time officers leave, their agency must notify the state council as to whether they were fired or resigned in lieu of termination. The state may strip an officer’s license even if an incident wasn’t criminal.

—ARIZONA: The Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board decertified 352 officers, 27 for sex-related misconduct. Law enforcement agencies must notify the board of any officer fired for cause, including a “detailed description” as to why. Convictions and noncriminal matters can lead to decertification.

—ARKANSAS: The Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training decertified 116 officers, 22 for sex-related misconduct. Agencies are required to report when they fire an officer. They also can recommend decertification, which can result even when an officer is not charged with a crime.

—CALIFORNIA: California requires agencies to report when an officer is convicted of a felony, and notes all convictions in officers’ personnel files. But the state doesn’t decertify officers and keeps no tally of such information. Under state law, California may strip officers’ certifications only if they were obtained fraudulently.

—COLORADO: The state decertified 142 officers, 22 for sex-related misconduct. According to the state’s online standards manual, officers can lose their licenses after a conviction, though it is unclear whether noncriminal incidents can also result in decertification. Colorado officials did not respond to questions about reporting requirements for misconduct.

—CONNECTICUT: The Police Officer Standards and Training Council decertified 33 officers, five for sex-related misconduct. Law enforcement agencies must notify the state of any felony convictions, as well as any time an officer is disciplined for making a false statement, perjury or tampering with a witness while on duty.

—DELAWARE: The Delaware Council on Police Training decertified 53 officers, none for sex-related misconduct. Law enforcement agencies are required to notify the state council any time they fire an officer. Convictions for a felony or misdemeanor, or obtaining a license by fraud, can result in decertification. Delaware provided no reasons for its decertifications.

—DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The district has a police standards board, but the Metropolitan Police Department said there is no process for certifying or decertifying officers. The department provided a list of charges for which it fired officers for a six-year period, but did not name them and said they were not considered decertified. The AP excluded them from its count.

—FLORIDA: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement decertified 2,125 officers, 162 for sex-related misconduct. Florida officials are automatically alerted if an officer is arrested. Agencies must also disclose if a “moral character violation” is sustained against an officer. Noncriminal incidents, in addition to convictions, may also lead to decertification.

—GEORGIA: The Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council decertified 2,800 officers, 161 for sex-related misconduct. Law enforcement agencies must report to the state when an officer is arrested, indicted or convicted, or suspended for 30 days or more for misconduct. The state has broad discretion to strip a license. Georgia said some officers decertified in the 2009-2014 records may have later regained their licenses. The AP found about a dozen officers who had their licenses revoked for sex-related misconduct listed as certified on a state website in October 2015.

—HAWAII: Hawaii does not certify officers at the state level and did not provide any information to the AP.

—IDAHO: The Idaho Peace Officer Standards & Training Council decertified 202 officers, five for sex-related misconduct. Idaho requires agencies to report within 15 days any officer’s firing or resignation in lieu of termination. The state can decertify for a conviction or noncriminal incident.

—ILLINOIS: The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board decertified 62 officers, 10 for sex-related misconduct. The board can decertify only for felony convictions or certain misdemeanors, but not for conduct that doesn’t result in a conviction. Law enforcement agencies and police officers are responsible for reporting any arrests or convictions to the board.

—INDIANA: The Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board decertified 31 officers, eight for sex-related misconduct. There’s no requirement for agencies to inform the state about officer arrests or noncriminal misconduct allegations. The state can decertify an officer for a felony conviction, multiple misdemeanor convictions or filing a false application with the board.

—IOWA: The Iowa Law Enforcement Academy decertified 53 officers, seven for sex-related misconduct. Agencies must notify the state when an officer resigns and explain why if there is a “substantial likelihood” that certification could be revoked or suspended as a result. Noncriminal misconduct, in addition to convictions, can prompt decertification.

—KANSAS: The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training decertified 143 officers, 28 for sex-related misconduct. Agencies must notify the commission of any officer’s arrest. Kansas can take action on convictions or noncriminal matters.

—KENTUCKY: The Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training decertified 43 officers, five for sex-related misconduct. Kentucky doesn’t mandate notification when an officer is arrested or found to have committed conduct that could result in decertification. Officers can lose their licenses over a felony conviction or noncriminal activities.

—LOUISIANA: A state website says agencies must report officer convictions for possible decertification. The Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, however, said it hadn’t decertified any officers for several years and did not provide any records to the AP.

—MAINE: The Maine Criminal Justice Academy decertified 109 officers, 22 for sex-related misconduct. Agencies must tell the state about officers arrested or convicted of a crime, as well as those fired or allowed to resign for misconduct. Maine can decertify for convictions or on-the-job misconduct.

—MARYLAND: The Maryland attorney general says the state does decertify, but the state’s police standards agency said it had no information responsive to the AP’s request. Police and Correctional Training Commissions policy director Thomas Smith said it is “extremely rare” for the agency to revoke an officer’s license.

—MASSACHUSETTS: Massachusetts does not certify officers at the state level and did not provide any records.

—MICHIGAN: The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards decertified 52 officers, 10 for sex-related misconduct. Michigan requires that agencies disclose when officers are fired for reasons that could warrant decertification. Those include felony convictions or noncriminal misbehavior.

—MINNESOTA: The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training decertified 16 officers, seven for sex-related misconduct. Officers must tell the state about any possible cause for losing their license. Decertification can result even when an incident isn’t criminal.

—MISSISSIPPI: The state Department of Public Safety’s Office of Standards and Training decertified 12 officers, one for sex-related misconduct. Agencies must inform the state about officers fired for misbehavior that could result in decertification. Mississippi doesn’t need a conviction to strip an officer’s license.

—MISSOURI: The Missouri Department of Public Safety decertified 144 officers, 26 for sex-related misconduct. Agencies must notify the state when an officer leaves and specifically if it’s for a crime, violation of agency regulations or failure to meet minimum state standards. Missouri can decertify for reasons other than a conviction.

—MONTANA: The Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council decertified 24 officers, nine for sex-related misconduct. Agencies don’t have to disclose officer misconduct, but must report firings within 10 days of the action. Convictions and noncriminal activities can lead to decertification.

—NEBRASKA: The Police Standards Advisory Council decertified 45 officers, eight for sex-related misconduct. Nebraska doesn’t require agencies to report officer misconduct. Officers can lose their licenses for convictions or noncriminal misbehavior.

—NEVADA: The Nevada Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training decertified 19 officers, eight for sex-related misconduct. The state requires notification when agencies fire officers over an arrest or misconduct that could result in decertification. Nevada can decertify both for felony and misdemeanor convictions involving issues of “moral turpitude.”

—NEW HAMPSHIRE: The New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council decertified 20 officers, one for sex-related misconduct. Agencies are not required to report officers who are arrested or commit conduct that could warrant decertification. New Hampshire can strip licenses over convictions and noncriminal activities.

—NEW JERSEY: New Jersey does not license officers at the state level and did not provide records.

—NEW MEXICO: The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board decertified 108 officers, 16 for sex-related misconduct. Officers terminated or allowed to resign because of misconduct must be reported by their agencies to the state. Convictions and noncriminal incidents can prompt decertification.

—NEW YORK: New York does not certify officers at the state level and did not provide records.

—NORTH CAROLINA: North Carolina says state law prevents it from disclosing details or providing statistics on most decertified officers. The state requires notification if an officer leaves an agency or is the subject of a criminal or internal investigation. Decertification is possible for felony convictions, misdemeanors or showing “a lack of good moral character.”

—NORTH DAKOTA: The North Dakota Peace Officer Standards and Training board decertified eight officers, three for sex-related misconduct. Agencies are required to report to the state officers arrested or fired for conduct that could lead to decertification. That conduct can include a noncriminal incident.

—OHIO: The Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission decertified 149 officers, 39 for sex-related misconduct. Agencies must tell the state that an officer has left their employment, but they aren’t required to provide an explanation. Court clerks in each county are required to notify the state about an officer’s conviction. The state can decertify for a conviction but not noncriminal misconduct.

—OKLAHOMA: The Oklahoma Commission on Law Enforcement Education and Training decertified 130 officers between 2012 and 2014, 15 for sex-related misconduct. The agency said it was too much work to provide the number of decertified officers going back to 2009. The agency considers most decertification information confidential under state law and allowed the AP to review only final records for officers it deemed to have committed sexual misconduct. Oklahoma requires that agencies disclose when they fire officers for misconduct that could result in decertification. The state can decertify for felony and misdemeanor convictions.

—OREGON: The Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training decertified 237 officers, 104 for sex-related misconduct. Officers fired for any reason must be reported to the state within 10 days. State law allows an officer’s decertification for felonies and many misdemeanors, as well as dishonesty, misuse of authority and several other categories of misconduct.

—PENNSYLVANIA: The Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission decertified 20 officers, none for sex-related misconduct. The state can decertify any officer who commits a criminal offense that carries a potential sentence of more than one year in prison, under state law. The commission says it relies on local law enforcement agencies to notify it when an officer is eligible for decertification.

—RHODE ISLAND: Rhode Island does not certify officers at the state level and did not provide any records.

—SOUTH CAROLINA: The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy decertified 546 officers, 46 for sex-related misconduct. The state requires notification when an officer is fired for misconduct that could lead to decertification, including convictions and noncriminal activity.

—SOUTH DAKOTA: The Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission decertified 19 officers, three for sex-related misconduct. Agencies must disclose to the state when they fire an officer for reasons that may justify decertification. South Dakota can revoke licenses for convictions or noncriminal misbehavior.

—TENNESSEE: The Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission decertified 159 officers, 22 for sex-related misconduct. Officers fired for misconduct that may warrant decertification must be reported. Convictions or providing false statements to the commission can also lead to decertification.

—TEXAS: The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement decertified 619 officers, 79 for sex-related misconduct. Agencies are required to report officer arrests to the state, though not the cause of those arrests. Decertification can happen when an officer is convicted or found to have committed noncriminal misconduct.

—UTAH: The Utah Peace Officers Standards and Training Board decertified 145 officers, 61 for sex-related misconduct. Utah requires agencies to investigate any misconduct allegation and notify it if substantiated. Officers can lose their license over a conviction or noncriminal incident.

—VERMONT: The Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council decertified five officers, none for sex-related misconduct. Vermont does not require agencies to report when they fire an officer. Felony convictions and fraud in the application process are cause to revoke a license.

—VIRGINIA: The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services decertified 17 officers, seven for sex-related misconduct. Felony convictions and noncriminal misconduct can lead to decertification. The state did not respond to questions about what types of officer misconduct it required agencies to report.

—WASHINGTON: The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission decertified 54 officers, 10 for sex-related misconduct. Washington requires notification of firings or misconduct that may warrant decertification. Officers can lose their licenses even if not convicted.

—WEST VIRGINIA: The West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Services decertified 28 officers, five for sex-related misconduct. Agencies must disclose an officer’s firing, as well as any arrest or noncriminal incident that could prompt decertification. Officers also must tell West Virginia about charges against them, other than minor traffic offenses.

—WISCONSIN: The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board decertified 15 officers, none for sex-related misconduct. Convictions don’t necessarily lead to decertification, and agencies aren’t required to disclose the reason for an officer’s departure.

—WYOMING: The Wyoming Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission decertified 17 officers, four for sex-related misconduct. Wyoming doesn’t require agencies to report officer arrests or misbehavior. It decertifies for convictions and noncriminal incidents.

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Data journalist Serdar Tumgoren contributed to this report.

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