DENVER (AP) - Law enforcement agencies in Colorado can hire officers from other states who have a history of misconduct or lying under oath - only certain criminal convictions automatically prevent them from joining the police force, a newspaper reported.
At least 39 states have laws making it more likely an officer with past problems is kept off the force for good, The Denver Post reported Sunday (https://dpo.st/1jXlPyA ). Roger Goldman, a nationally recognized expert on officer misconduct, says it’s unclear how extensive the problem is nationwide.
“We know it happens,” he said of officers getting hired in other states. “But we don’t know how frequently it happens. Anecdotally, we know there have been high-profile cases of it.”
A federal system to track violations and lawsuits against officers does not exist, though it does for doctors, said Goldman, who has helped write laws establishing police review panels.
“We have it for docs but not for cops,” he said. “That’s a problem.”
Lyle Mann, executive director of the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, said Arizona supports strong officer oversight.
“From my perspective, you can pick your doctor,” Mann said. “But you don’t get to pick your police officer; the police officer picks you.”
The Denver Post asked for Colorado’s database of certified and decertified officers to research the backgrounds of those trained in other states, but the attorney general’s office would not release some information.
The state provided limited data showing that nearly 1,100 officers certified in Colorado in the past decade had received their original training outside the state. But it refused to identify those still employed or the agencies in Colorado where they have worked.
In a letter denying the newspaper’s request, David Blake, Colorado’s chief deputy attorney general, said that making the database public risked revealing the identity of undercover officers. He would not redact the undercover officers from the database.
“While the public has a right to inspect certain public records involving criminal justice matters, it does not have the right to pursue them at the expense of the safety of officers or when it may compromise ongoing investigations,” Blake said in his letter.
The newspaper has argued that the information should be released as a matter of public safety.
Information from: The Denver Post, https://www.denverpost.com
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