If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And if it is broke, don’t fix it.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press published the results of its yearlong study of cops involved in sexual misconduct. They pored over 9,000 cases of police officer decertification from a five-year period and of those, 1,000 were kicked off the force for unlawful sex-related incidents. Some incidents were lawful but against policy, such as consensual sex while on-duty.
A study of this magnitude undoubtedly brings up many questions, most notably: how could this happen? The answer: the system is broken.

To quote directly from the article, “Resigning or being fired does not mean an officer loses the ability to work in law enforcement.” That’s where decertification comes in. But there is no unified, national process for decertifying police officers. A national index of police officers who have lost their law enforcement licenses does exist, but it only contains 20,000 names. Also, only 39 of the 50 United States

provided names of decertified officers to the index; providing the names is not mandatory. Sigh.

But in many instances, police departments were either too lazy to thoroughly check an applicant’s background, or they knowingly looked the other way even though there were red flags flapping furiously in the wind, literally waving at them about certain officers. Like this dude.

In some states, the process to decertify takes so long, a problem officer can resign from one department and get a job at another before their case even comes up for review. Like this dude.

Although the AP series centered on sexual misconduct, we can more than likely apply its structural findings to other issues of problem officers. An excellent example is this dude.

The term “Keystone Kops” came into being based on a silent movie featuring incompetent and buffoonish police officers. It was used fairly regularly to describe modern-day police but today that moniker no longer applies. Too many lives have been destroyed, too many lives have been taken by police officers who have been allowed to operate with impunity. These officers, as well as their superiors and others who have allowed this to happen on their watch, must be called what they are: criminal.

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