As police leaders pledge to reform and weed out “bad apples” within their departments, it has become more urgent than ever for law enforcement to have a formal, wide-reaching system in place to identify police misconduct. There are 697,195 full-time sworn law enforcement officers employed in more than 13,000 local police departments throughout the U.S. Federal statute defines police misconduct as the excessive force, sexual assault, intentional false arrests, theft, or the intentional fabrication of evidence resulting in the loss of liberty to another. Strikingly, however, there exists no formal national database that records officer misconduct and the police officer’s resulting resignation or termination due to misconduct. Consequently, law enforcement officers guilty of serious misconduct can find employment at different agencies after they have been fired or resigned due to the unavailability of a national database. Since 2006, approximately 24% of fired police officers from some of the largest police departments have been reinstated. It’s worth noting some of the police departments were later required to rehire the officers they fired. This is the seventh in a series of action briefs on police reform.
The CJR Solution: As state, local, and federal lawmakers, mayors, law enforcement, and other important stakeholders consider advancing police reform in their jurisdictions, CJR recommends the following: