How the system keeps some problem cops on the streets. The Detroit Free Press investigated police misconduct in Michigan. Here’s what we found. Detroit Free Press
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation aiming to prevent police misconduct from being kept secret when officers leave for a job at another department.
The law signed Tuesday takes effect in 90 days. It will require law enforcement agencies to keep records about the circumstances surrounding any officer’s employment separation. The officer will have to sign a waiver allowing a prospective employer to ask for the records, and the department will be unable to hire the officer unless it receives the documents.
The bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Rick Jones, says bad behavior by law enforcement should never be tolerated. He says the overwhelmingly majority of police and sheriff’s deputies are “great public servants,” but a “bad apple” can spoil everything.
A Free Press investigation published this summer while Jones’ bill was pending in the Legislature found that police departments routinely conduct background checks on prospective officers, but those checks are not always a deterrent to hiring cops with histories of problems. Law enforcement leaders said they routinely ask applicants to sign waivers so they can see personnel records from prior employers.
The investigation found that officers with histories of misconduct, lawsuits and even crimes have jumped from job to job in Michigan because of lax oversight and indifference by departments that hired them, in some cases, while fully aware of their prior issues. Jones’ bill, while requiring information-sharing, does not prevent local chiefs from hiring problem officers if the chiefs so desire.
The Free Press investigation pinpointed about two dozen current and former police officers who landed new jobs despite having serious misconduct and, in some cases, criminal histories.