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GOLDMAN AND PURO MACROED.DOC

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REVOCATION OF POLICE OFFICER CERTIFICATION: A VIABLE
REMEDY FOR POLICE MISCONDUCT?*
ROGER L. GOLDMAN**
STEVEN PURO***

I.
A.

INTRODUCTION

Revocation of Police Officers’ Certificates

According to Professor Jerold H. Israel, “if you want to do something
about the police, the answer is not the Supreme Court . . . the answer is
administrative regulations [or legislative remedies].”1 Citing Chief Justice
Warren’s opinion in Terry v. Ohio,2 Professor Israel noted that the Court “can’t
cure all the problems” and suggested that the best, albeit limited, example of
non-judicial remedies is Congress’s 1994 grant of authority to the U.S.
Department of Justice to bring pattern and practice suits against local police
departments.3

* The research for this Article was supported in part by a grant from the Beaumont Faculty
Development Fund, Saint Louis University. The authors thank Stephen R. Felson, Margaret
McDermott, Dan Hasenstab and Mandi Serrone for their assistance in the preparation of this
article.
** Professor of Law, Saint Louis University School of Law.
*** Professor of Political Science, Saint Louis University.
1. Jerold H. Israel, Remarks after the Richard J. Childress Memorial Lecture (Sept. 29,
2000) (audiotape on file with the Saint Louis University Law Journal).
2. 392 U.S. 1 (1968). After noting that the exclusionary rule has its limitations (for
example, the rule does not apply when officers are not seeking evidence for trial), the Court in
Terry commented that it did not intend to “discourage the employment of other remedies than the
exclusionary rule to curtail abuses for which that sanction may prove inappropriate.” Id. at 15. A
few years earlier in Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), the Court did suggest that remedies for
police misconduct other than the exclusionary rule were ineffective. “The experience of
California that such other remedies have been worthless and futile is buttressed by the experience
of other States. The obvious futility of relegating the Fourth Amendment of the protection of
other remedies has, moreover, been recognized by the Court since Wolf.” Id. at 652.
3. 28 U.S.C. §14141 (1994). For a description of the operation of the law and the two civil
suits brought against police departments in Steubenville, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, see
Debra Livingston, Police Reform and the Department of Justice: An Essay on Accountability, 2
BUFF. CRIM. L. REV. 815 (1999).
541

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The most common state legislative and administrative approach for
addressing police misconduct, which is largely unknown to scholars and the
public even though it has been adopted by forty-three states, involves
revocation of the officer’s state certificate or license4 that is issued upon
successful completion of state-mandated training. As opposed to termination
of employment by a local department, which does not prevent the officer from
being rehired by a different department, revocation of the certificate prevents
the officer from continuing to serve in law enforcement in the state.5 A state
agency, typically called a Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission
(POST),6 has the authority to hold hearings and impose sanctions against

4. Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas issue licenses rather than certificates upon
successful completion of an examination. As discussed below, there is disagreement among some
states that issue certificates as to whether the certificate is a license, or merely an indication of
successful completion of a course of study. See discussion regarding the California Commission,
in text accompanying infra notes 143-151.
5. As will be discussed infra, the grounds for termination from a police department are
usually much broader than what constitutes a revocable offense, but a few states provide that
termination is grounds for revocation. For example, South Dakota provides that a certificate may
be revoked or suspended if the officer has been “discharged from employment for cause.” S.D.
CODIFIED LAWS § 23-3-35(3) (Michie 1998).
6. Almost all POSTs have official websites; the information provided varies among the
states. A few include descriptions of officers whose certificates have been revoked. Ala. Peace
Officer Standards & Training Comm’n, available at http://www.dps.state.al.us/postst.html (last
visited Jan. 21, 2001); Div. of Alaska State Troopers, available at http://www.dps.state.ak.us/ast
(last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Ariz. Peace Officer Standards & Training Bd., available at
http://www.azpost.state.az.us (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Ark. Comm’n on Law Enforcement
Standards & Training, available at http://www.law-enforcement.org/clest/ (last visited Jan. 21,
2001); Cal. Peace Officer Standards & Training, available at http://www.post.ca.gov/
newindex.htm#top (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Colo. Peace Officer Standards & Training,
available at http://www.ago.state.co.us/POST/Psthome.htm (last visited Feb. 18, 2001); Conn.
Police Officer Standards & Training Council, available at http://www.post.state.ct.us (last visited
Jan. 21, 2001); Del. State Police, available at http://www.state.de.us/dsp/recruiting/recruit.htm
(last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Fla. Criminal Justice Standards & Training Comm’n, available at
http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/cjst (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Ga. Peace Officer Standards &
Training Council, available at http://www.gapost.org (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Haw. Pub.
Safety Dep’t, available at http://www.hawaii.gov/psd/tsd (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Idaho Peace
Officer Standards and Training, available at http://www.idaho-post.org (last visited Jan. 21,
2001); Ill. Law Enforcement Training & Standards Bd., available at http://www.cait.org/ iletsb
(last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Ind. Law Enforcement Acad., available at http://www.state.in.us/ilea
(last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Iowa Law Enforcement Acad., available at
http://www.state.ia.us/government/ilea (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Kan. Law Enforcement
Training Ctr., available at http://www.kletc.org (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Ky. Peace Officer
Prof’l Standards, available at http://docjt.jus.state.ky.us/ (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); La. Peace
Officer Standards & Training Council, available at http://www.cole.state.la.us (last visited Jan.
21, 2001); Me. Criminal Justice Acad., available at http://janus.state.me.us/dps/mcja (last visited
Jan. 21, 2001); Md. Police & Corr. Training Comm’n, available at http://www.dpscs.state.
md.us/pct (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Mich. Comm’n on Law Enforcement Standards, available

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police officers7 that have engaged in serious misconduct as defined in the
statute or regulation. Known as revocation,8 decertification9 or cancellation,10

at http://www.mcoles.org (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Minn. Peace Officer Standards & Training,
available at http://www.dps.state.mn.us/post (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Mass. Criminal Justice
Training Council, available at http://www.state.ma.us/cjtc (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Miss. Law
Enforcement Officers’ Training Acad., available at http://www.dps.state.ms.us/mleota/
mleota.html (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Mo. Peace Officer Standards & Training Council,
available at http://www.dps.state.mo.us/post/posthead.htm (last visited Jan. 21, 2001); Mont.
Peace Officer Standards & Training Council, available at http://www.iadlest.org/montana (last
visited Jan. 22, 2001); Neb. Crime Comm’n, available at http://www.nol.org/home/crimecom
(last visited on Jan. 22, 2001); Nev. Comm’n on Peace Officer Standards & Training, available at
http://www.post.state.nv.us (last visited January 22, 2001); N.H. Police Standards & Training
Council, available at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/klohmann/homepage.htm (last
visited Feb. 18, 2001); N.J. Div. of Criminal Justice, available at http://www.state.nj.us/lps/dcj/
lawes.htm (last visited Feb. 18, 2001); N.M. Dep’t of Pub. Safety & Recruiting Div., available at
http://www.dps.nm.org/training (last visited Feb. 18, 2001); N.Y. Div. of Criminal Justice Serv.,
available at http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/ops/ (last visited Jan. 22, 2001); N.C. Office of the
Att’y Gen. Training & Standards Div., available at http://www.jus.state.nc.us/otsmain/
otsmain.htm (last visited Nov. 6, 2000); N.D. Officer Standards & Training Bd., available at
http://209.218.117.34/ndakota (last visited Jan. 22, 2001); Ohio Peace Officer Training Acad.,
available at http://www.ag.state.oh.us (last visited Jan. 22, 2001); Okla. Council on Law
Enforcement Educ. & Training, available at www.cleet.state.ok.us (last visited Jan. 22, 2001);
Or. Dep’t of Pub. Safety Standards & Training, available at http://www.orednet.org/~bpsst (last
visited Jan. 22, 2001); Pa. Mun. Police Officers’ Edu. & Training, available at http://www.
mpoetc.org (last visited Jan. 22, 2001); R.I. Law Enforcement Trainers Ass’n, available at
http://newportri.net/rileta (last visited Jan. 22, 2001); S.C. Dep’t. of Public Safety Criminal
Justice Acad. Div., available at http://www.iadlest.org/scarolina (last visited Jan. 22, 2001); S.D.
Law Enforcement Standards & Training Comm’n, available at http://www.state.sd.us/attorney/
aboutoffice/agdiv/DCI/let/les&tcommission.shtml (last visited Feb. 18, 2001); Tenn. Law
Enforcement Training Acad., available at http://www.state.tn.us/safety/tleta.htm (last visited Feb.
18, 2001); Tex. Comm’n on Law Enforcement Officer Standards & Educ., available at
http://www.tcleose.state.tx.us/tcleosehome/indexhome.htm (last visited Feb. 18, 2001); Utah
Peace Officer Standards & Training, available at http://www.post.state.ut.us (lasted visited on
Jan. 22, 2001); Vt. Criminal Justice Training Council, available at http://www.vcjtc.state.vt.us
(last visited Jan. 22, 2001); Va. Dep’t of Criminal Justice Serv., available at
http://www.dcjs.state.va.us (last visited Jan. 22, 2001); Wash. State Criminal Justice Training
Comm’n, available at http://www.wa.gov/cjt (last visited Jan. 22, 2001); W. Va. Criminal Justice
Serv. Law Enforcement Training, available at http://www.wvdcjs.com (last visited Nov. 6,
2000); Wis. Dep’t of Justice: Law Enforcement Serv. Div., available at http://danenet.wicip.org/
wisms/orgs/lesdwdoj.htm (last visited Feb. 18, 2001); Wyo. Law Enforcement Acad., available at
http://wleacademy.com (last visited Jan. 22, 2001).
7. For ease of reference, this paper will use “police officer” rather than “peace officer” to
refer to both police and deputy sheriffs. Many state POSTs revoke the certificates of correctional
officers and in such cases, the state agency’s name indicates this broader authority. For example,
Florida’s revocation agency is the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission.
8. This is the term used by the vast majority of states.
9. This is the term used in Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, Vermont, Virginia and
Wisconsin.

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this practice has the advantage of insuring that officers cannot continue to
practice their profession in the state by suspending or removing state
certification. It treats the police profession like any other—if minimum
standards of performance are not met, the person loses the privilege of
continuing in the profession.11 Although the focus of this article is on
misconduct in the course of the officer’s official duties, grounds for revocation
encompass a wide range of activities, including off-duty misconduct. As is
true for other professions, a sanction short of revocation is often provided.
Florida, for example, provides for revocation, suspension or placement on
probationary status for up to two years, retraining and issuance of a
reprimand.12 Except in the case of so-called constitutional officers who hold
elective offices, such as sheriffs or constables, revocation applies to
everyone—from patrolman to chief. And as discussed below, many state
POSTs have jurisdiction over these elected officials.13
B.

Examples of Revocation

Police conduct that has led to successful damage suits by victims for
violations of due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 has also been grounds for
revocation of the officer’s certificate. For example, in Rogers v. City of Little
Rock,14 an officer stopped the plaintiff’s car, offered to follow her home to get
her insurance papers, and coerced her into having sex.15 The U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld a $100,000 judgment against the officer,
as well as the district court’s finding that his conduct “shocked the conscience”
in violation of substantive due process.16
Similarly, a nine-year member of the St. Louis, Missouri Police
Department stopped a woman for a routine traffic violation and discovered she
was wanted by authorities in connection with a child custody case. The officer
also found marijuana in the car, and he told the woman he could help her avoid
criminal charges if she agreed to have sex with him in his personal car. She
10. This is the term used in Arizona, California, Connecticut and Mississippi. In addition,
POSTs may annul certificates in Georgia and recall them in Maryland and Mississippi.
11. The authors of this article have been writing about revocation since the 1980s. See
Roger Goldman & Steven Puro, Decertification of Police: An Alternative to Traditional Remedies
for Police Misconduct, 15 HASTINGS CONST. L.Q. 45 (1987) [hereinafter Goldman & Puro, An
Alternative to Traditional Remedies]; Steven Puro & Roger Goldman, Police Decertification: A
Remedy for Police Misconduct?, 5 POLICE & LAW ENFORCEMENT (1987) [hereinafter Puro &
Goldman, A Remedy for Police Misconduct]; Steven Puro, Roger Goldman & William C. Smith,
Police Decertification: Changing Patterns Among the States, 1985-1995, 20 POLICING 481
(1997) [hereinafter Puro et al., Changing Patterns Among the States].
12. FLA. STAT. ANN. § 943.1395(7)(e) (1996 & Supp. 2000).
13. See discussion infra in text accompanying notes 110-115.
14. 152 F.3d 790 (8th Cir. 1998).
15. Id. at 793.
16. Id. at 795.

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did so, but subsequently reported the incident. This officer was fired by the
Department17 and his certificate was revoked by the Missouri POST in 1999.18
Officers have also been decertified for intentional violations of suspects’
constitutional rights. For example, an Arizona deputy arrested a suspect on a
charge of interfering with a judicial proceeding.19 When the deputy read the
suspect the Miranda rights and the arrestee invoked his right to counsel, the
deputy turned off the tape recorder and an hour later had a full confession that
was ultimately suppressed. At the suspect’s criminal trial, upon direct
testimony, the deputy testified that he had arrived at the suspect’s residence at
10:15 a.m., interviewed him for approximately one hour, and the suspect had
made incriminating statements that established his guilt. All of this testimony
was false. A felony complaint was issued against the deputy charging him
with two counts of perjury, a class four felony. He later accepted a plea
agreement, which found him guilty of the class one misdemeanor of
committing false swearing by making a sworn statement that he believed to be
false. He was subsequently decertified.20
C. The Need for Revocation
Many of the states with the power to impose sanctions are doing so with
increasing frequency. For example, forty officers had their certificates revoked
in 1999 compared to one in 1993, two in 1994, and six in 1995.21 The reasons
included sex with arrestees or inmates, theft, third-degree assault and positive
drug tests.22 In Texas, there were twenty-five suspensions and thirty-three
revocations in 1997, compared to 267 suspensions and 146 revocations in
1999.23
Traditional remedies for police misconduct fail to address the problem
caused by the practice of leaving the decision to hire and fire officers up to
local sheriffs and chiefs. This often leads to situations where unfit officers are
able to continue to work for a department that is unable or unwilling to
terminate them. Even when they are terminated, these officers often go to
work for other departments within the state. Although virtually every other
profession is regulated by a state board with the power to remove or suspend
17. Bill Bryan, City Police Officer Quits After Woman Says He Coerced Her into Sex, ST.
LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, May 27, 1996, at 7A.
18. MO. DEP’T OF PUBLIC SAFETY, 5 DPS NEWS 5 (2000) [hereinafter DPS NEWS].
19. ARIZONA INTEGRITY BULLETIN, available at http://www.azpost.state.az.us/
integrity%20bulletin/jan2000.htm.
20. Id.
21. See DPS NEWS, supra note 18, at 2.
22. See DPS NEWS, supra note 18, at 4-5.
23. E-mail from Craig H. Campbell, Ph.D., Deputy Chief, Prof’l Programs and Curriculum,
Texas Comm’n on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE), to Steven
Puro, Professor, Saint Louis University (Sept. 27, 2000) (on file with authors).

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the licenses or certificates of unfit members of the profession (e.g., attorneys,
physicians, teachers), there has been a longstanding tradition of local control of
police without state involvement.
A few examples from reported federal cases illustrate the problem of
terminated officers continuing to work within the criminal justice system.
Donald White was a police officer in the Village of Darien, Wisconsin.24 He
was terminated for several instances of offering to drop or void traffic citations
against male drivers in exchange for sexual favors.25 He later applied for and
obtained a position with a department in the nearby town of Bloomfield,
Wisconsin where he committed two similar acts.26 Bloomfield officials were
unaware of White’s prior misconduct because Darien officials concealed
White’s personnel file from Bloomfield officials as well as from the state
agency investigating White.27 Two of White’s victims while he was employed
at Darien were awarded $785,000 by a federal court jury because the police
chief knew or should have known of similar prior conduct but failed properly
to supervise or investigate White.28 Similarly, Elijah Wright, an officer
employed by the Helena, Arkansas Police Department, offered to fix traffic
tickets for three women in exchange for sex.29 After resigning, he applied to
work as a deputy with the Pulaski County, Arkansas Sheriff’s Department.
During the background check conducted by Pulaski County, three officers sent
letters of recommendation from Helena, and no mention was made of the
traffic-fixing incident. Wright was hired by Pulaski County, and he
subsequently forced women detainees to undress and engage in various sex
acts in his presence while he was on duty.30
Without a mechanism at the state or national level to remove the certificate
of law enforcement officials who engage in such misconduct, it is likely that
there will be more such instances of repeated misconduct.31 Traditional
24. Carney v. White, 843 F. Supp. 462 (E.D. Wis. 1994), aff’d, 60 F.3d 1273 (7th Cir. 1995).
25. Id. at 478.
26. Id.
27. Relying on plaintiffs’ opposition brief, the district court’s opinion stated that
“Bloomfield officials were totally unaware of White’s prior misconduct because the Village of
Darien officials closed and concealed White’s personnel file and instructed Chief Michalek not to
respond to an inquiry from the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Law Enforcement Standards
Bureau.” Id. at n.5. According to Dennis Hanson, Bloomfield officials were told by a field
investigator that the Department should check into Officer White’s background. Telephone
Interview with Dennis Hanson, Director of Wisconsin Training and Standards Bureau (Jan. 26,
2001) (notes on file with authors).
28. Men Awarded $785,000 After Cop Forced Sex During Traffic Stop, CHI. DAILY LAW
BULL., July 25, 1994, at 3.
29. Doe v. Wright, 82 F.3d 265, 267 (8th Cir. 1996).
30. Id.
31. For a discussion of the traditional methods of controlling police conduct, see Goldman &
Puro, An Alternative to Traditional Remedies, supra note 11, at 51.

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remedies do not address the problem. For example, the exclusionary rule
prevents prosecutors from using probative evidence seized from a defendant in
violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, but it does nothing to punish the
officer.32 Likewise, criminal prosecution of officers is rare, and convincing
jurors to convict is extremely difficult.33 Administrative complaints against the
police in front of civilian review boards have been equally ineffective because
the department for which the officer works rather than an independent body
usually conducts the investigation.34 Finally, civil damage suits against police
officers face the problem of juries, who tend to rule in favor of the police; even
if the suit is successful, the officer is often judgment-proof.35
Recognizing the need for a law that removes unfit officers from the
profession, particularly those engaging in repeated misconduct, most states
have adopted revocation laws;36 four states have enacted such legislation since
1996.37 The professional organization of POST Directors, the International
Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards & Training
(“IADLEST”), in its Model Minimum State Standards, recommends that
POSTs be given the authority to both deny and revoke state certification for

32. For a discussion of the effect of the exclusionary rule, see id. at 52.
33. For a discussion of criminal prosecution of police officers, see id. at 59.
34. For a discussion of discipline by such local review boards, see id. at 60-64.
35. For a discussion of civil suits, see id. at 65.
36. ALA. CODE § 36-21-45 (1997 & Supp. 2000); ALASKA STAT. § 18.65.240 (Lexis 2000);
ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 41-1822 (West 2000); ARK. CODE ANN. §§ 12-9-602, 12-9-603 (Lexis
1999); CAL. GOV’T CODE § 1029 (West 1995 & Supp. 2001); CAL. PENAL CODE § 13510.1
(West 2000); COLO. REV. STAT. § 24-31-305 (2000); CONN. GEN. STAT. ANN. § 7-294d (West
1999); DEL. CODE ANN. tit. 11, § 8404 (1995); FLA. STAT. ANN. § 943.1395 (West 1996); GA.
CODE ANN. § 35-8-7.1 (2000); IDAHO CODE § 19-5190 (Michie Supp. 2000); 50 ILL. COMP.
STAT. ANN. § 705/6.1 (Supp. 2000); IOWA CODE ANN. § 80B.11 (West 1996 & Supp. 2000);
KAN. STAT. ANN. § 74-5616 (1992 & Supp. 1999); KY. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 15.392(2)(3),
15.404 (Lexis Supp. 2000); ME. REV. STAT. ANN. tit. 25, § 2806 (West 1988 & Supp. 2000);
MD. CODE ANN. art. 41, § 4-201 (1999); MICH. STAT. ANN. § 4.450 (9b) (Lexis Supp. 2000);
MINN. STAT. ANN. § 626.8431 (West Supp. 2001); MISS. CODE ANN. § 45-6-7 (2000); MO. ANN.
STAT. § 590.1135 (West 1995 & Supp. 2001); MONT. CODE ANN. § 44-4-301 (1999); NEB. REV.
STAT. § 81-1403 (6) (2000); NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 289.510, 289.580 (Lexis 2000); N.H.
REV. STAT. ANN. § 188-F:26 (1999); N.M. STAT. ANN. § 29-7-4 (Michie 1997); N.C. GEN.
STAT. § 17C-10 (Lexis 1999); N.D. CENT. CODE § 12-63-12 (Michie 1997 & Lexis Supp. 1999);
OHIO REV. CODE ANN. §109.77 (West Supp. 2000); OKLA. STAT. ANN. tit. 70, § 3311 (West
1998 & Supp. 2000); OR. REV. STAT. § 181.662 (1999); 53 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 2164 (West
1997); S.C. CODE ANN. § 23-6-450 (West. Supp. 1999); S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 23-3-35 (Michie
1998); TENN. CODE ANN. § 38-8-104 (1997); TEX. OCC. CODE ANN. §§ 1701.351, 1701.502,
1701.503 (2001); UTAH CODE ANN. § 53-6-211 (Lexis Supp. 2000); VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 20, §
2355 (2000 Supp.); VA. CODE ANN. §§ 9-170, 15.2-1706, 15.2-1707 (Michie Supp. 2000); W.
VA. CODE ANN. §§ 30-29-6, 30-29-3 (Michie 1998); WIS. STAT. §165.85 (West 1997 & Supp.
2000); WYO. STAT. ANN. § 9-1-704 (Lexis 1999).
37. These states are Illinois (1999), Kentucky (1998), Michigan (1998) and Ohio (1996).

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law enforcement and corrections officers.38 The seven states without
revocation authority are Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New
York, Rhode Island and Washington.39
Although it might seem unusual for a police department to hire an officer
with a past record of misconduct, the second department is usually located in a
poor community that cannot afford to pay high salaries to its police. These
low-income departments are more willing to overlook the previous misconduct
because the officer is in possession of the state-mandated certificate that
demonstrates he has successfully completed the necessary hours of training to
be an officer.40 Departments need not pay for the costs of a training academy
or the salary of the trainee while he is in training. 41 In other cases, the second
department may be unaware of the previous misconduct, either because the
first department would not disclose the officer’s previous misconduct, or
because the second department does not conduct a thorough background check.
Officers under suspicion of misconduct may willingly leave their current
department with an understanding that they will receive a positive job
recommendation or at least no negative recommendations. Chiefs and city
officials fear defamation suits if they give an honest assessment of the officer’s
past performance to the new department.42 The chief’s and city’s main interest
is removing the officers from their departments. As the mayor of a community
commented after the quick departure—by termination or resignation—of four
police officers after allegations of improper sexual relationships with two teenage girls, “The important issue here is that the police officers accused of doing

38. INT’L ASS’N OF DIR. OF LAW ENFORCEMENT STANDARDS & TRAINING, MODEL
MINIMUM STATE STANDARDS, STANDARDS OF PROF’L CONDUCT § 6.0, available at
http://www.iadlest.org/modelmin.htm (revised June 24, 1998) [hereinafter MODEL MINIMUM
STATE STANDARDS].
39. With the exception of Hawaii, all states have POSTs. During the last several years, bills
that would provide for revocation have been submitted in the Washington legislature but have not
been enacted.
40. Then head of Internal Affairs for the St. Louis Police Department, Captain Clarence
Harmon, stated, in support of decertification legislation in Missouri, that “as many as ninety
percent of the officers who leave that department under a cloud go to municipal police
departments in St. Louis County and apply for jobs. Except for the most notorious cases, they
were able to get that employment.” Kathryn Rogers, New Law Will Empower State to Decertify
Unfit Officers, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, June 29, 1988.
41. As described by Gary Maddox, Assistant Director of the Missouri Department of Public
Safety, “The officer is fired from Department A and goes to Department B and says, ‘I’m
certified’. . . You have a police chief at Department B who can spend the money to have someone
trained or else hire this officer who already is trained. The choice is obvious.” Id.
42. The executive director of Missouri’s POST recently noted that “cities often allow
problem officers to resign to avoid lengthy appeals and potential lawsuits.” Elizabeth Vega,
When Officers Quit Under Suspicion, State Wants to Know Details, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH,
Jan. 14, 2001, at C1.

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these things are not with the Webster Groves Police Department.”43 When it
was pointed out that other departments might hire them, the mayor responded,
“Those communities make their own choices.”44 Without a state agency with
the authority to collect information on past performance and prevent the officer
from continuing in law enforcement by a procedure such as revocation, the
movement of unfit officers among departments seems to be inevitable. In
some cases, departments let problem officers resign with an agreement not to
disclose the reasons for the resignation,45 rather than go through the expense
and length of a hearing and possible reversal by a civil service board.46 The
executive director of Missouri’s POST said there was a need for police
departments to report resignations to POST, not just suspensions or
terminations; departments should “not send their dirty laundry down the road
to be cleaned.”47
In one highly publicized case at the West Palm Beach Police Department,
two officers had been hired despite serious problems at their previous
departments. One of the officers had worked for six different police
departments in Tennessee and Georgia in five years. He had worked in a
police department in Chattanooga, Tennessee before joining the West Palm
Beach department. The officer resigned from the Chattanooga department
after two complaints of brutality were made against him and a drug problem
with marijuana became known while he was serving on the undercover drug
squad. He promised the police commissioner of Chattanooga that he would
not apply to work in Tennessee, Alabama or Georgia but would go to South
Florida. That information was not disclosed to the West Palm Beach Police
Department. The other officer, while working for the Riviera Beach, Florida
Police Department, arrested a suspect, beat him and blinded him in one eye.
The department settled a lawsuit brought by the victim of the beating for
$80,000. The Riviera Beach Department was asked by West Palm Beach,
“Are you aware of any derogatory information concerning this applicant?”
The Riviera Beach Department responded that it was not aware of any such
information, even though the beating incident had occurred only five months
earlier. The mayor of West Palm Beach later stated that neither of the officers
would have been hired had the city been told about the previous misconduct.48

43. Id.
44. Id. Two of the officers were subsequently hired by nearby departments. Id.
45. See, for example, the agreement of the officer in the West Palm Beach case, which is
discussed in the text accompanying infra note 48.
46. See text accompanying infra notes 108-109 (discussing the problems of local civil
service boards overturning the termination decisions of police departments).
47. See Vega, supra note 42.
48. Dateline NBC (NBC television broadcast, Nov. 24, 1992) (transcript on file with
authors) [hereinafter Dateline NBC].

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Major problems with police practices, including racial profiling, brutality
and use of false evidence, call into question whether police self-regulation can
address these issues. When police officers overstep their authority, there is
often a decline in public confidence that can diminish a department’s
legitimacy.49 In November 2000, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission wrote that
“police misconduct remains an ‘incessant’ problem in the United States, and
the failure to wipe out abuse and brutality requires wholesale changes.”50
Revocation of police officer certificates can lessen the amount of police
misconduct and should be adopted in those states without such a program.
II. REVOCATION PRACTICES IN THE STATES
A.

History of State Involvement in Addressing Police Misconduct Issues

Concern about police professionalism was first voiced in the 1800s in
England by Sir Robert Peel.
In this country, the first efforts at
professionalization of the police began with the formation of the International
Association of Chiefs of Police, in 1893.51
In the 1920s, the Wickersham Commission discussed the lack of trained
officers, and thirty years later, the American Bar Association drafted a “Model
Police Training Act.”52 In 1967, concerned about abusive police practices in
the wake of the death of Martin Luther King, the President’s Commission on
Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, recommended that every
state establish a POST commission on police standards to set minimum
recruiting and training standards and to provide financial and technical
assistance for local police departments.53 In 1973, the National Advisory
Commission on Criminal Justices Standards and Goals made recommendations
on improved recruitment, selection and training.54 The Commission was
attempting to resolve problems occurring between members of minority
communities and the police.
The earliest function of POSTs was to supervise statewide minimum
training standards. Over time, POSTs began to set minimum qualifications for
entrance into the police academies. Graduates of the state-certified academies
became the main, in some states the only, source of new police officers. Upon
successful completion of the academy, the officer receives the state certificate.
49. David Kocieniewski, New Jersey Argues that the U.S. Wrote the Book on Race Profiling,
N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 29, 2000, at A1.
50. Eric Lichtblau, Police Abuse is a Lingering Problem, L.A. TIMES, Nov. 4, 2000, at A26.
See also U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS COMM’N, infra note 55.
51. MODEL MINIMUM STATE STANDARDS, PREAMBLE, supra note 38.
52. Id.
53. THE PRESIDENT’S COMM’N ON LAW ENFORCEMENT AND ADMIN. OF JUSTICE, THE
CHALLENGE OF CRIME IN A FREE SOCIETY ix (1967).
54. MODEL MINIMUM STATE STANDARDS, PREAMBLE, supra note 38.

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Without a certificate, an individual cannot be employed as a police officer in
the state. Following its authority in the areas of police training, qualification
and certification, most POSTs were authorized to revoke the certificates of
officers for defined misconduct. This is an inevitable development: if an
individual is not qualified to enter the academy because he has been convicted
of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, what possible justification can
there be that once an individual who met the qualifications to enter has
graduated from the academy and has been certified, and then is convicted of a
misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, he may retain his certificate? As
discussed below, the type of police misconduct that can lead to loss of
certification varies greatly among the states. In their relatively new role,
POSTs serve as licensing agencies for police personnel. The POSTs’ ability to
revoke the certificates of police officers allows them to deal with the problem
of police misconduct.
In late 2000, the United States Civil Rights Commission Report, “Police
Practices and Civil Rights in America,”55 a follow-up to its classic 1981 report,
“Who is Guarding the Guardians?”56 stated that attempts to reduce police
brutality through agencies like civilian review boards have largely failed. The
Commission found that “the problem of police misconduct has affected every
facet of police culture and policies.”57 Hopefully, if it issues another report in
twenty years, the Commission will find that POSTs have been more effective
than civilian review boards.
B.

Authority for Revocation

State laws differ on the source of authority for revocation. In the early
years, many states adopted revocation by POST commission regulations
without legislative authorization. Attacked as beyond the scope of a
commission’s authority, courts upheld the regulations on the grounds that if the
commission has the explicit authority to issue certificates, it has the implicit
power to revoke them.58 The West Virginia Supreme Court stated that if a
board has power to license, it has inherent power to revoke for good cause, and
may do so “whether or not the power to revoke is expressly or impliedly
reserved in the licensing statute or in the certificate of license.”59 Over time,
concerned about challenges to the authority of the POSTs to revoke without
statutory directives, most legislatures expressly authorized revocation. In
55. UNITED STATES CIVIL RIGHTS COMM’N, POLICE PRACTICES AND CIVIL RIGHTS IN
AMERICA, DRAFT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (2000) [hereinafter POLICE PRACTICES].
56. UNITED STATES CIVIL RIGHTS COMM’N, WHO IS GUARDING THE GUARDIANS?; A
REPORT ON POLICE PRACTICES (1981).
57. POLICE PRACTICES, supra note 55.
58. Cirnigliaro v. Fla. Police Standards and Training Comm’n, 409 So.2d 80, 84 (Fla. Dist.
Ct. App. 1982).
59. Mounts v. Chafin, 411 S.E.2d 481, 487 (W.Va. 1991).

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Tennessee60 and West Virginia,61 however, there is still no express statutory
authority to revoke licenses for misconduct but the commission regulations
nonetheless authorize revocation.
There is also a variation among the states with regard to how the
legislature provides revocation power. For example, in some states, a statute
sets forth the grounds for revocation,62 while in others, the legislature
establishes the revocation power in the POST and permits it by rule to establish
the specific grounds for revocation.63 Still, in other states, a combination of
the foregoing approaches is used; the state statute sets forth some grounds for
revocation, usually a felony conviction, and the POST is permitted to establish
other grounds for revocation.64
C. Grounds for Revocation
Of the states with revocation authority, whether administrative or
legislative, there are two major approaches: (1) those that permit revocation on
narrowly defined grounds such as a felony conviction or conviction of a
misdemeanor involving moral turpitude65 and (2) those that permit revocation
for conduct that has not resulted in a conviction.66 For example, with respect
to the latter, commission of conduct that would constitute a crime or, more
broadly, engaging in gross misconduct indicating an inability to function as a
law enforcement officer would qualify. Although on-duty misconduct is
usually considered a more serious matter, POSTs may also revoke for off-duty
misconduct. In the case where revocation is permitted for reasons other than a
60. The TENN. CODE ANN. § 38-8-104 (a)(4) (1997) provides: “The commission shall
establish uniform standards for the employment and training of police officers, including preemployment qualifications and requirements for officer certification.”
61. The W.VA. CODE ANN. § 29-20-6 (1998) requires annual review of certification by the
commission and permits revocation of a certificate if an officer fails to attend an annual in-service
training program, but says nothing about revocation on grounds of misconduct.
62. Connecticut’s statute sets forth the grounds for revocation without giving the
Commission the power to expand or narrow the grounds. CONN. GEN. STAT. ANN. § 7-294d(c)(2)
(1999).
63. South Carolina’s law provides: “The Director of the Department of Public Safety is
authorized to . . . provide for suspension, revocation, or restriction of the certification, in
accordance with regulations promulgated by the department.” S.C. CODE ANN. § 23-6-450
(1997). South Carolina, by regulation, has adopted very broad grounds for revocation. Texas
provides: “The commission may: establish minimum standards relating to competence and
reliability, including education, training, physical, mental, and moral standards, for licensing as
an officer, county jailer, or public security officer.” TEX. OCC. CODE ANN. § 1701.151(2)(2001).
64. Colorado’s statute provides: “A certification . . . shall be suspended or revoked by the
POST board if the certificate holder has been convicted of a felony or has otherwise failed to
meet the certification requirements established by the board.” COLO. REV. STAT. § 24-31-305(2)
(2000).
65. See, e.g., ALA. CODE § 36-21-45 (1997 & Supp. 2000).
66. See, e.g., ALASKA STAT. § 18.65.240 (Lexis 2000).

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criminal conviction, the commission has to conduct administrative hearings,
with variations among the states on the amount of proof necessary to revoke.
In most states, the standard of proof to revoke the license of a professional is a
preponderance of evidence67 but in some states, it is clear and convincing
evidence.68
1.

Revocation for Official Misconduct Against Citizens

Some states, by statute or regulation, revoke for official misconduct
directed against citizens. In these states, there is usually no requirement of a
criminal conviction, rather, it must only be established in an administrative
hearing that the conduct has occurred. South Dakota authorizes revocation for
a misdemeanor conviction involving moral turpitude and lists as an example of
moral turpitude, “[i]nterference with another’s civil rights.”69 Some states set
forth specific types of citizen abuse as grounds for revocation, including
engaging in sexual harassment as defined by state law and using deadly force
when not authorized by state law.70 New Mexico directly addresses physical
abuse of citizens while they are serving in a law enforcement capacity as
opposed to off-duty misconduct by providing as a ground for suspension or
revocation “committing acts of violence or brutality which indicate that the
officer has abused the authority granted to him or her as a commissioned law
enforcement officer.”71 North Dakota similarly provides for discipline for onduty misconduct by authorizing revocation or suspension if the officer “[h]as
used unjustified deadly force in the performance of the duties as a peace
officer.”72
The approach of other states concerning official misconduct is to use
general language rather than try to specify particular kinds of abuse. For
example, Utah and West Virginia provide for suspension or revocation for
67. See, e.g., ARIZ. ADMIN. CODE § R2-19-119 (1995); NEB. ADMIN. R. & REG. § 010.09
(1998), available at http://www.nol.org/home/SOS/rules/crime/crimemenu.htm.
68. See, e.g., Latham v. Fla. Comm’n on Ethics, 694 So.2d 83, 84 (Fla. App. 1997); Boswell
v. Iowa Bd. of Veterinary Med., 477 N.W.2d 366, 369 (Iowa 1991) (applying preponderance for
veterinarians and doctors but a higher standard for attorneys); Robinson v. Okla. Bd. of Med.
Licensure and Supervision, 916 P.2d 1390, 1391 (Okla. 1996) (applying clear and convincing
evidence to persons holding professional licenses); Sobel v. Bd. of Pharmacy, 882 P.2d 606, 609
(Or. App. 1994). Washington’s proposed law provides that the standard of proof in actions
before POST is “clear, cogent and convincing evidence.” H.R. 2717, 56th Leg., Reg. Sess., §
10(1) (Wash. 2000) (on file with authors). An effort in a prior year to pass a revocation law was
defeated because of disagreement about the appropriate standard of proof. Interview with
Michael D. Parsons, Executive Director, Washington State Criminal Justice Training
Commission, Seattle, Wash. (June 26, 2000) (notes on file with authors).
69. S.D. ADMIN. R. § 2:01:11:01 (1987).
70. MINN. R. § 6700.1600 N, O (2000).
71. N.M. ADMIN. CODE tit. 10, § 29.1.11(4) (2000).
72. N.D. CENT. CODE § 12-63-12 (1997).

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“[c]onduct or pattern of conduct which would tend to disrupt, diminish or
otherwise jeopardize public trust and fidelity in law enforcement.”73 By
regulation, the Utah POST defines what it considers “[c]onduct or pattern of
conduct.”74 Wyoming provides for revocation or suspension for “[o]ther
conduct or a pattern of conduct which tends to significantly undermine public
confidence in the law enforcement profession.”75 The Missouri statute
concerning official misconduct authorizes revocation for “[g]ross misconduct
indicating inability to function as a peace officer.”76 A proposed change to the
statute would substitute the following language: “Misconduct, fraud,
misrepresentation, dishonesty, unethical conduct or unprofessional conduct in
the performance of the functions and duties or indicating inability to function
as a peace officer.”77
A hybrid approach—use of general language but directed to specific types
of misconduct against citizens—is used in the South Carolina regulations,
which provide for revocation or suspension for “(c) The repeated use of
excessive force in dealing with the public and/or prisoners; (d) Dangerous
and/or unsafe practices involving firearms, weapons, and/or vehicles which
indicate either a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or
property; (e) Physical or psychological abuses of members of the public and/or
prisoners.”78
2.

Revocation on Grounds of Moral Turpitude

Many of the states that revoke for misdemeanor convictions specify that
the offense must be one involving moral turpitude.79 Other states list specific
misdemeanors involving moral character that trigger revocation. The Illinois
statute includes misdemeanor convictions for sexual offenses, drug offenses
and offenses involving dishonesty and official corruption, among others.80 A
1993 California Attorney General’s Opinion found that only such
misdemeanors could be grounds for cancellation of a peace officer’s
certificate.81 The Commission had asked the Attorney General whether the
Commission could cancel the certificate of an officer who had been convicted

73. UTAH CODE ANN. § 53-6-211(1)(d)(v) (1997); W.VA. CODE ST. R. § 149-2-16.1(1998).
74. UTAH ADMIN. CODE R728-409-3 J, L (1995).
75. WY RULES & REGS. Att’y Gen. PO ch. 7 § 1(f) (WESTLAW through 2000).
76. MO. REV. STAT. § 590.135(6) (1994 & Supp. 1998).
77. Missouri’s Peace Officer Standards & Training Council, available at
http://www.dps.state.mo.us/post/posthead.htm (last visited Jan. 21, 2001).
78. S.C. CODE ANN. REGS. § 38-016A (4) (2000).
79. OKLA. STAT. tit. 70, § 3311.K (1991 & Supp. 2000); IOWA ADMIN. CODE r. 5016.2(2)(a) (1997). In 1996, Colorado repealed its moral turpitude provision. 1996 Colo. Sess.
Laws § 1572-1574.
80. 50 ILL. COMP. STAT. § 705/6.1 (Supp. 2000).
81. 76 Cal. Op. Att’y Gen. 270 (1993).

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of a crime for which he could have been sentenced to imprisonment in a state
prison but who was given a lesser sentence, the punishment that would be
given to a misdemeanant.82 The opinion noted that the Commission had the
power to “cancel any certificate” but that power had to be read in light of
“legislative standards or guidelines [or] would be subject to challenge as an
unconstitutional delegation of legislative power.”83 Finding legislative
guidelines in the statute authorizing the Commission to adopt rules establishing
standards for moral fitness in recruitment,84 the Opinion found that not all
misdemeanors committed by officers could result in revocation: the offense
“must be one involving moral turpitude demonstrating unfitness to be a peace
officer . . . not merely involving ‘private’ or other conduct which would not so
demonstrate unfitness . . . sufficient to meet the legislative standards” of the
law.85 The regulation provided that a certificate shall be canceled when the
officer “is adjudged guilty of a felony which has been reduced to a
misdemeanor” pursuant to California law “and which constitutes either
unlawful sexual behavior, assault under color of authority, dishonesty
associated with official duties, theft or narcotic offense.”86
3.

Revocation for Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Convictions

What is unusual about domestic violence misdemeanor convictions is that
it is the one example where federal law standards have influenced state
revocation laws. In the Gun Control Act of 1968,87 Congress prohibited
firearm possession for several categories of persons, including convicted felons
and illegal drug users.88 The Act has always provided for a “public interest
exception” which permits federal and state agency personnel to use firearms on
the job, even those who would otherwise be disqualified under § 922(g). In
1996, Senator Lautenberg proposed the extension of the prohibition against
firearms possession to “those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor
crime of domestic violence.”89 That provision was enacted in 199690 and is not

82. The California law at issue is Section 17 of the California Penal Code, which provides:
A felony is a crime which is punishable with death or by imprisonment in the state prison.
When a crime is punishable . . . by imprisonment in the state prison . . . it is a
misdemeanor for all purposes under the following circumstances: (1) After a judgment
imposing a punishment other than imprisonment in the state prison . . . .
CAL. PENAL CODE § 17(a)-(b) (West 1999).
83. See supra note 81, at 274.
84. CAL. PENAL CODE § 13510(a) (West 2000).
85. See supra note 81, at 275.
86. CAL. CODE REGS. tit. 11, § 1011(b)(2) (2000). As discussed below, the Commission has
never used the regulation to cancel a certificate for conviction of a misdemeanor.
87. 18 U.S.C. § 922 (1994 & Supp. IV 1998).
88. Id. § 922(g).
89. Id. § 922(g)(9).

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subject to the public interest exception for law enforcement officers. It applies
not only to officers who were convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence
offenses after the date of the Lautenberg Amendment but also to those who
were convicted prior to its passage. In a letter to all state and local law
enforcement officials, the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms wrote: “Employees subject to this . . . [Act] must immediately
dispose of all firearms and ammunition in their possession. The continued
possession of firearms and ammunition by persons under this . . . [Act is] a
violation of law and may subject the possessor to criminal penalties.”91
Challenges have been made to the Amendment on a variety of grounds,
including equal protection. Police officers have argued that felonies, including
domestic violence felonies, were subject to the public interest exception but
not misdemeanors for domestic violence. The two circuits that have spoken on
the issue have rejected the challenges.92 In the wake of a recent Supreme
Court case limiting the reach of the commerce clause,93 attacks on a
companion provision to the Amendment have been made on such grounds but
have been rejected by the lower courts.94
The Lautenberg Amendment does not require police departments to
terminate an officer who has been convicted of a domestic violence
misdemeanor; departments can continue to employ the officer in a job not
requiring use of a firearm without violating federal law. However, a few states
have amended their revocation laws after passage of the Lautenberg
Amendment and included such convictions as a reason for revocation.95 The
90. Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 104-208, § 658, 110
Stat. 3009, 3009-371-372 (1996).
91. Dep’t of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Open Letter to all
State and Local Law Enforcement Officials, available at http://www.atf.treas.gov/firearms/
domestic/opltrleo.htm (last visited Jan. 28, 2001).
92. Fraternal Order of Police v. United States, 173 F.3d 898 (D.C. Cir. 1999); Hiley v.
Barrett, 153 F.3d 1276 (11th Cir. 1198), aff’g Nat’l Ass’n of Gov’t Employees, Inc. v. Barrett,
968 F. Supp. 1564 (N.D. Ga. 1997). For a discussion of these cases and recommendations for
removing the public interest exception for felony misdemeanor convictions, see Alison J. Nathan,
Note, At the Intersection of Domestic Violence and Guns: The Public Interest Exception and the
Lautenberg Amendment, 85 CORNELL L. REV. 822 (2000).
93. United States v. Morrison, 120 S. Ct. 1740 (2000).
94. United States v. Jones, 231 F.3d 508 (9th Cir. 2000); United States v. Visnich, 109 F.
Supp. 2d 757 (N.D. Ohio 2000) (upholding 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) (2000), which prohibits a
person who is subject to a domestic violence restraining order from possessing a firearm).
95. See, e.g., KAN. STAT. ANN. § 74-5616 (1992 & Supp. 1999); ALASKA ADMIN. CODE tit.
13, § 85.110(b)(1) (2000). Oklahoma provides for the suspension of a certificate in the case of a
plea of guilty or nolo contendere to misdemeanor domestic violence. OKLA. STAT. tit. 70, §
3311.K (1991 & Supp. 1999). New Hampshire, which permits revocation for domestic violence,
does not require a conviction. That provision took effect in 1994, pre-dating the Lautenberg
Amendment. N.H. CODE ADMIN. R. POL. 402.02 (WESTLAW through 2001). Of course, officers
who have committed acts of domestic violence can have their licenses revoked in states that do

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Alaska POST acknowledged the influence of the Amendment by explaining
that one of the reasons for adding conviction of a misdemeanor crime of
domestic violence to the grounds for revocation was “to adopt and incorporate
concerns of . . . federal law relating to misdemeanor crimes of domestic
violence for police.”96 The proposed Washington law, although it does not use
the phrase “domestic violence misdemeanor conviction,” would effectively
revoke the certificate of an officer convicted of domestic violence who was
discharged by a local law enforcement agency for such an offense. The bill
provides for revocation of the certificate of a person who is discharged for a
crime “which disqualifies a Washington citizen from the legal right to possess
a firearm under state or federal law.”97
D. Voluntary Surrender of License
A few states—Texas by regulation98 and Ohio by statute99—specifically
authorize an officer to voluntarily surrender his license, usually in the form of
a negotiated plea with a prosecutor to a criminal charge. In the absence of
such an agreement, the license of a Texas officer who is convicted of a felony
is subject to revocation; the license of an officer who is convicted of a
misdemeanor is subject to suspension up to five years; the license of an officer
who is given deferred adjudication—which does not constitute an adjudication
of guilt—is usually suspended for the probationary period. An officer who
voluntarily surrenders his license in a plea typically agrees to do so
permanently. Of the 110 voluntary surrenders in Texas between January 1997
and September 2000, 104 were permanent and six were for a term of years.100
Thus, voluntary surrenders almost always result in revocation regardless of the
offense and disposition of the criminal case whereas judicial disposition of the
not have a specific domestic violence provision. For example, in an Arizona case, an officer’s
certificate was revoked when he struck his wife in the face during an argument on the grounds
that he committed an offense involving physical violence. ARIZ. INTEGRITY BULLETIN, Vol. 1,
Case No. 3, available at http://www.azpost.state.az/us/integrity%20bulletin/jan2000.htm (Jan.
2000).
96. Notice of amendments to its regulations was filed by the Alaska Police Standards
Council on July 20, 1998. See 1998 REG LEXIS 11256.
97. H.R. 2717, 56th Leg., Reg. Sess., § 1(8) (Wash. 2000) (on file with authors).
98. A license holder may voluntarily surrender a license as part of a plea bargain. 37 TEX.
ADMIN. CODE § 211.101(a)(2) (West 2000).
99. The Commission director has the power to revoke a certificate if the officer “[p]leads
guilty to a misdemeanor . . . pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement . . . in which the person
agrees to surrender the certificate.” OHIO REV. CODE. ANN. § 109.77 (West Supp. 2000). Other
states have developed settlement agreements between the officer and the POST in which the
officer waives his rights to an administrative hearing, admits that he has violated the statute, and
agrees to give up his certificate. See, e.g., Mo. Settlement Agreement used by Mo. POST (on file
with authors).
100. E-mail from Craig H. Campbell, supra note 23.

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charge results in revocation only in the case of felony convictions. The reason
that officers are willing to enter into such agreements is to have the charge
reduced to a misdemeanor or to receive a deferred adjudication.101 For the first
nine months of 2000, there were thirty-seven permanent surrenders and ninetynine revocations in Texas.102
More common than plea-bargaining by prosecutors during the criminal
proceeding is the use of consent agreements between POSTs and officers who
do not wish to contest revocation at the POST administrative proceeding. In
some states, both a voluntary surrender as part of a plea bargain to a criminal
charge as well as a consent agreement at the administrative hearing before the
POST are utilized.103 In others, prosecutors do not plea bargain for a voluntary
surrender, but the POST Commission staff does so at the administrative
stage.104 There have also been instances where judges, after a plea, provide as
part of the sentence that the officer surrender his law enforcement
certificate.105
E.

Revocation and Civil Service Hearings

One of the issues in drafting revocation legislation is the relationship
between termination from the local agency and revocation by the POST. In
some states, such as Arizona, there is no connection—an officer who is
terminated from the department but then reinstated by a civil service board can
still have his certificate revoked by the POST for the same misconduct.106 In
other states, the POST may not go forward with revocation if the officer’s
termination was overturned by a civil service board. In a proposed revocation
statute for the state of Washington,107 the Commission may revoke only when

101. Interview with Ed Porter, Assistant District Attorney, Civil Rights Division, Harris
County, Houston, Tex., Dec. 7, 2000 (notes of conversation on file with authors). In the most
notorious case of a voluntary surrender, Sgt. Michael Griffin, Sheriff’s Dep’t, Houston,
voluntarily surrendered his license in exchange for dropping misdemeanor charges of assault on
his girlfriend and carrying a weapon. A year later, he robbed a bank and committed a murder for
which he was convicted and sentenced to death. Id.
102. E-mail from Craig H. Campbell, supra note 23.
103. E-mail from Jeremy Spratt, Investigator, Mo. POST, to Roger Goldman, Professor, Saint
Louis University School of Law (Dec. 15, 2000) (on file with authors). In one case, a circuit
judge ordered an officer to surrender his certificate as part of the officer’s sentence. Id.
104. E-mail from William Flink, Certification Supervisor in charge of revocation, 1985-1990,
Utah POST, to Roger Goldman, Professor, Saint Louis University School of Law (Dec. 16, 2000)
(on file with authors) (recounting practices at the Utah POST).
105. Craig Jarvis, Plea Ends NCSU Case, NEWS AND OBSERVER (RALEIGH), Aug. 20, 1999,
at B1.
106. Arizona regulations state: “No action by an agency or decision resulting from an appeal
of that action shall preclude action by the [POST] Board to deny, cancel, suspend or revoke the
certified status.” ARIZ. ADMIN. CODE § R13-4-109.G (1995).
107. H.R. 2717, 56th Leg., Reg. Sess., § 1(9) (Wash. 2000) (on file with authors).

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there is a final action, meaning that the decision of the local department to
terminate has been upheld through civil service appeals or collective
bargaining remedies. States considering which approach to follow will want to
examine the quality of the civil service system in their state. In a series of
articles in the Boston Globe, reporter David Armstrong recounts several
instances of civil service boards overturning local departments’ decisions to
terminate officers.108 Interviews with police chiefs revealed that many chiefs
preferred to settle cases rather than terminate an officer and risk having the
Civil Service Board reverse the termination. These chiefs believe that “the
board is inherently biased because three of the five members have close ties to
public safety unions representing officers in trouble.”109
F.

Whose Certificates are Subject to Revocation?

Great variation exists among the states on who is covered by revocation
laws: part-time vs. full-time; elected officials, like sheriffs vs. appointed
officers; law enforcement officers vs. correctional officers, etc. There is also
variation on the length of time an individual may be employed prior to
obtaining the certificate. The state with the widest range of officers coming
under its jurisdiction is Oregon, which has the authority to revoke the
certificates of public safety officers, including police officers, corrections
officers, telecommunicators, emergency medical dispatchers, fire service
professionals, parole and probation officers, certified reserve officers110 and
private security guards.111 In 1999, Oregon revoked the certificates of sixty
private security guards.112
In some states, failure to obtain a certificate, or revocation of a certificate,
prevents the person from holding office as an elected county sheriff. In
Oregon, a sheriff has one year to obtain the certificate after taking office.113 In
Utah, the person must have his certificate prior to taking office.114 In states
where sheriffs are constitutional officers, such as Colorado, courts have

108. David Armstrong, Conduct Unbecoming: Second Chance for Bad Cops; Chiefs Say Civil
Service Thwarts Discipline, BOSTON GLOBE, May 21, 2000, at A1; David Armstrong, Civil
Service Panel Criticized as Unprofessional, Pro-Union, BOSTON GLOBE, May 22, 2000, at A1.
109. David Armstrong, Court: No Job for Man Who Hit Wife, BOSTON GLOBE, Oct. 7, 2000,
at A17.
110. OR. REV. STAT. §§ 181.610-181.712 (1994). With respect to youth correction officers,
the Board establishes minimum standards and training, but it neither certifies nor revokes
certification. Id. at § 181.640.
111. Id. at §§ 181.870-181.991.
112. INT’L ASS’N OF DIR. OF LAW ENFORCEMENT STANDARDS AND TRAINING: A
SOURCEBOOK OF INFO 101 (William L. Flink, ed., 2000) (on file with authors).
113. OR. REV. STAT § 206.015(3) (1994).
114. UTAH CODE ANN. § 17-22-1.5 (1999).

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declared unconstitutional training and certification statutes, which established
qualifications beyond those set forth in the Colorado Constitution.115
G. Resignation vs. Termination
It is common for officers to resign their positions prior to an official
termination from the local department. Chiefs are willing to tolerate this
practice so that they do not have to go through the expense, and possible
embarrassment, of providing a hearing. Officers are willing to leave without a
hearing so that they do not have an official termination on their records.116
Some states recognize the existence of this practice by treating a resignation
the same way as a termination. For example, Iowa permits, by regulation,
revocation when the officer has been discharged from employment for “good
cause”117 as well as when the officer “leaves or voluntarily quits when
disciplinary action was imminent or pending which could have resulted in [his]
being discharged for ‘good cause.’”118 Washington’s proposed law permits
revocation for certain misdemeanor convictions only when the officer is
“discharged for disqualifying misconduct” from employment by a law
The proposed Washington law also includes
enforcement agency.119
circumstances when resignation rather than termination can still trigger
revocation—”when the totality of the circumstances support a finding that the
officer resigned in anticipation of discipline, whether or not the misconduct
was discovered at the time of resignation, and when such discipline, if carried
forward, would more likely than not have led to discharge for disqualifying
misconduct.”120
H. The Need for Effective Revocation Laws
The mere presence of revocation authority in a state does not mean that the
officers who have committed misconduct at one department will not be able to
move to another; it depends on the specific provisions of the state’s statute and
regulations as well as the state’s enforcement mechanisms. In the cases
discussed in the introduction to this article,121 each state had revocation
115. See Jackson v. State, 966 P.2d 1046 (Colo. 1998 ) (en banc).
116. For example, an officer in Raleigh, North Carolina was forced to resign after thirteen
incidents for which his department disciplined him, including sexual harassment of a fellow
employee. The Chief “promised not to give any prospective employers a negative
recommendation if [the officer] simply dropped his administrative appeals and resigned.” Craig
Jarvis, NCSU Settles Student’s Suit, RALEIGH NEWS AND OBSERVER, May 18, 2000, at A1.
117. IOWA ADMIN. CODE r. 501-6.2(2)(b) (1997).
118. Id. r. 501-6.2(2)(c).
119. H.R. 2717, 56th Leg., Reg. Sess., § 1(8) (Wash. 2000) (on file with authors).
120. Id.
121. See supra Part I-C for a discussion of Carney v. White, 843 F. Supp. 462 (E.D. Wis.
1994) and Doe v. Wright, 82 F.3d 265, 267 (8th Cir. 1996).

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authority at the time the incidents occurred, but the officers were still able to
get hired by the second department. In Carney v. White,122 which involved the
commission of acts of sodomy on males arrested for traffic offenses by the
officer, Wisconsin revocation law did not require the POST to revoke in case
of a termination. Decisions on whether to hire as well as whether to conduct a
background investigation were left to local departments, unless the officer had
been convicted of a felony. According to a brief filed in the case, the first
chief was instructed to close the officer’s personnel file to inquiries from the
second department as well as to the POST.123 In Doe v. Wright,124 an officer
resigned from the first department where he had offered to fix traffic tickets of
three different women in exchange for sex. As required by Arkansas law, the
chief filed a report with the state POST that the officer had resigned but did
not, apparently, set forth the reasons for the resignation; further, he did not
recommend that the officer be decertified. Under Arkansas law at the time,
revocation was discretionary with the commission for such misconduct.125
Before hiring the officer, the second police department, which was located in
the same state, contacted the first department, which gave a favorable
recommendation. The first department omitted the information regarding the
reports of inappropriate sexual conduct even though the information was in the
officer’s personnel file. After obtaining employment at the second department,
the officer forced women to undress and engage in sexual acts in his presence.
In 1997, the Arkansas law was amended to require chiefs to file a report with
the POST detailing the facts and reasons for the resignation in a case like
Wright.126 The new version of the law also requires the POST to review
whether certification should be suspended or revoked.127
In an incident of police misconduct that occurred in West Palm Beach
County, two officers with problems at previous departments killed Robert
Jewett, a suspect. Referring to the West Palm Beach case in testimony before
a congressional subcommittee, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of
Law Enforcement wrote: “I am confident that had their records been known

122. 843 F. Supp. 462 (E.D. Wis. 1994).
123. Carney, 843 F. Supp. at 478 n.5. In fact, a POST official did put the second department
on notice that the officer had a questionable background. See supra note 27 (discussing interview
with Dennis Hanson).
124. 82 F.3d 265 (8th Cir. 1996).
125. Ark. Comm’n on Law Enforcement Standards and Training Regs. § 1010 (2)(a) (copy on
file with authors).
126. ARK. CODE. ANN. § 12-9-602b(2)D (LEXIS through 1997 Reg. Sess.).
127. ARK. CODE. ANN. § 12-9-603 (LEXIS through 1997 Reg. Sess.).

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when they applied for their police jobs, they would have never been hired.
Had this happened, Mr. Jewett might be alive today.”128
At the time of the Jewett killing, Florida law did require chiefs to send the
Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC) a report where
they had cause to suspect the officer had committed decertifiable conduct.129
However, no report was sent by the Riviera Beach, Florida department in
which one of the officers had been working, and from which the officer had
been dismissed after beating and blinding a suspect just five months earlier. In
1992, after the West Palm Beach case, Florida instituted a system intended to
alert police agencies to problem officers.130
The other officer involved in the Jewett killing had come to West Palm
Beach from Tennessee. In his letter of resignation, he asked the Commissioner
of the Chattanooga Police Department not to mention the fact that he was
forced to resign, stating that he would leave the Chattanooga area and move to
South Florida.131 Under Tennessee POST regulations, had the officer been
suspended or terminated by the department for disciplinary reasons, he could
have had his certificate revoked or suspended,132 but the regulations do not
cover the situation where the officer resigns.
These cases point to the need of both strengthening as well as ensuring
more compliance with existing laws and regulations. Typically, the laws have
criminal penalties for non-compliance but the authors are not aware of these
sanctions ever being imposed. Another approach is to withhold state funds for
non-compliance. For example, Florida’s former law authorized cut-off of
revenue-sharing funds to counties where there was non-compliance with the
CJSTC statute.133 The current trend in the states is for mandatory reporting by
agency managers of terminations and resignations to the POST134 or to the
hiring departments,135 with qualified immunity for good faith reporting.136

128. Police Officers’ Rights and Benefits: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Crime of the
Committee in the Judiciary House of Representatives, 104th Cong. 2, 175 (1996) (prepared
statement of James T. Moore).
129. FLA. STAT. ANN. § 945.1395 (5) (West 1996).
130. See discussion infra note 227.
131. See Dateline NBC, supra note 48.
132. Rules of the Tenn. Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, § 110-2.04(2) (on
file with authors).
133. FLA. STAT. ANN. § 218.23 (West 1973); see also current version FLA. STAT. ANN. §
218.23 (West 1999 & Supp. 2000)).
134. See Puro et al., Changing Patterns Among the States, supra note 11, at 489-92.
135. ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 41-1828.01 (1999).
136. See infra notes 205-209.

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III. THE REVOCATION EXPERIENCE OF SELECTED STATES
Both political and legal concerns play a role in the development of revocation
legislation. Changes in statutes and regulations are dependent on various
coalitions within each state. This section offers a brief review of the revocation
experience in three states: Missouri, California and Florida. These states
represent a variety of approaches to revocation.
A.

Missouri—A Success Story

Missouri adopted statutory revocation in 1988.137 Between 1980 and 1988,
the Missouri POST could revoke certificates by administrative regulation only,
and it revoked the certificates of only three officers.138 The new statutory
revocation authority, adopted in 1988, was strongly supported by police chiefs in
the major cities—Kansas City and St. Louis.139 Missouri has a broad revocation
statute that allows for revocation of police officers’ certificates for conviction of
felonies and misdemeanors involving moral turpitude, for “gross misconduct
indicating inability to function as a peace officer,” as well as other grounds.140
The 1999 disciplinary proceedings of the Missouri Department of Public
Safety are instructive about decisional patterns in states with broad revocation
authority. The Director revoked the certificates of forty officers and placed five
other officers on probation.141 In the forty-five cases, approximately half were for
felony or misdemeanor convictions; for the other half the misconduct did not
result in a criminal conviction. With one exception of an individual who was
placed on probationary status for five years, all other officers who were convicted
of a crime had their certificates revoked. Eleven of the forty-five cases involved
sexual misconduct, five without a criminal conviction and six after a conviction.
These cases included sex with minors during a ride-along program and sex in
exchange for helping the victim avoid criminal charges in a custody dispute.142

137. MO. REV. STAT. § 590.135.2 (1994 & Supp. 1998).
138. See Goldman & Puro, An Alternative to Traditional Remedies, supra note 11, at 64
n.105.
139. Hearing on H.B. 150 Before the House Comm. on Governmental Organization ( Mo.
1986) (notes taken at the hearing on file with authors).
140. MO. REV. STAT § 590.135.2. (1994 & Supp. 1998).
141. See DPS NEWS, supra note 18, at 5.
142. The percentage of sexual misconduct disciplinary practices is approximately the same that
was found in our study of Florida decertification from 1976 to 1983. See Goldman & Puro, An
Alternative to Traditional Remedies, supra note 11, at 69 tbl. 4. For similar, recent examples of
sexual assaults on women after traffic stops involving three different officers in Nassau and Suffolk
Counties in Long Island, New York, see Tina Kelley, Officer Accused of Sexually Assaulting a
Woman While on Duty, NY TIMES, Jan. 27, 2001, at A11.

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California—A Battle Brewing

There is, in some states, opposition to the expansion of POSTs’ power.
Nowhere is this more evident than in California. In California, there is
currently a heated debate on whether a certificate merely means successful
completion of a course of study, or whether it means the person is licensed as a
professional and must maintain certain minimum levels of performance or lose
his ability to practice his profession. The battles are currently taking place
both at the Commission level and in the state legislature.
By statute, California’s Commission has the power to “cancel any
certificate,”143 but the Commission has done so only for the very limited
reasons that are already set forth in the statute, such as felony convictions,
error in issuing the certificate and fraud in obtaining the certificate. In 1991,
the Commission adopted a rule that would have permitted cancellation beyond
the statutory grounds if the officer is adjudged guilty of a felony “which has
been reduced to a misdemeanor . . . and which constitutes either unlawful
sexual behavior, assault under color of authority, dishonesty associated with
official duties, theft, or narcotic offense.”144 Because of a state Attorney
General’s opinion,145 the Commission believed it did not have the power to use
the 1991 rule and thus has never canceled or denied a certificate pursuant to
that rule.146 The Commission is considering the adoption of a similar rule that
would conform to the Attorney General’s opinion by limiting cancellation to
The
felonies reduced to misdemeanors involving moral turpitude.147
Commission is closely divided between commissioners who favor rules that
would increase the Commission’s authority and those who are representatives
of police unions who “have vowed to kill them, arguing that POST is a training
organization, not a licensing regulator.”148
A parallel fight has been going on in the California Legislature. A bill was
passed and sent to the Governor on August 10, 2000,149 which would have
expanded current practice by authorizing cancellation for conviction of any
felony in which the amount of time given the defendant was the equivalent of a
misdemeanor sentence. The bill would have prohibited the Commission from
adopting grounds for cancellation beyond those listed in the statute, a power it
has according to the Attorney General’s opinion that authorizes cancellation,
not just for criminal convictions, but for conduct that indicates the officer is
143. CAL. PENAL CODE § 13510(e) (West 2000).
144. CAL. CODE REGS. tit. 11, § 1011(b)(2) (2000).
145. 76 Cal. Op. Att’y Gen. 270 (1993).
146. See supra text accompanying notes 81, 83, 85.
147. Id.
148. Dan Walters, Police Panel Deadlocked on Oversight, THE FRESNO BEE, Nov. 7, 2000, at
A13.
149. AB 2449, 2000 Reg. Sess. (Ca. 2000), available at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/9900/bill/asm/ab_2401-2450/ab_2449_bill20000810_enrol (last visited Feb. 7, 2001).

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not morally fit. The bill was withdrawn before the Governor acted, and was
returned to the Senate, where the author of the bill prepared an amendment,
which was not considered by the Senate committee since the session ended.
The amendment would have deleted the bill’s language expanding the statutory
grounds for cancellation, while limiting the power of the Commission to
cancel. It read: “The Legislature finds and declares that a certificate issued to a
peace officer shall be deemed to be educational, in nature, rather than a license,
and that the authority of POST shall be limited to withdrawal or to cancellation
of a certification for violation of the law, as specifically provided by operation
of law, or set forth in this chapter.”150 That bill would have forbidden the
Commission to add any grounds for cancellation beyond those set forth in the
statute, essentially limiting cancellation to felony convictions.151
C. Florida—Cutting Back on the Scope of Revocation
Florida, one of the leading states in revocation of licenses of officers,
presents a prime example of the political and legal forces affecting the scope of
revocation. During a twenty-year period, from 1981 to the present, the Florida
CJSTC152 has altered the severity and scope of corrective and disciplinary
authority upon several occasions.153
Between 1967 and 1980, there was no statutory authority for revocation;
there were only standards and training requirements. Nonetheless, the Police
Standards and Training Commission did revoke the licenses of several officers
during this time period.154 In 1980, the legislature created the Criminal Justice
Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC) which became responsible for
licensing and taking disciplinary action against all criminal justice personnel,
including police, correctional officers and correctional probation officers. The
Commission’s authority extends to officers who fail to maintain minimum
qualifications or “good moral character.”155 Evidence of a lack of good moral

150. See author’s amendment to AB 2449 (on file with authors) (referred to the Senate Public
Safety Committee and held until the end of the legislative section without action).
151. Id.
152. From 1967 to 1981 it was known as the Police Standards Council which was to provide
standardized measures for the selection and training of officers, to increase base salaries and to
promote professionalization of the police service.
153. From 1980 to 1995 many states altered their revocation authority, mainly by broadening
or narrowing the range of offenses or shifting from regulation to statute. These alterations make it
difficult to develop longitudinal data concerning police revocation in a particular state and
throughout the nation. Since 1995 there has been greater stability in state revocation practices.
154. See Cirnigliaro v. Fla. Police Standards and Training Comm’n, 409 So.2d 80, 85 (Fla.
Dist. Ct. App. 1982) (upholding the Commission’s authority to revoke even in the absence of
explicit legislative authority).
155. FLA. STAT. ANN. § 943.13 (West 1996 & Supp. 2001).

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character includes both a felony conviction and convictions of any
misdemeanor involving a false statement or perjury.156
Because of the broad scope of its authority, the Commission was hearing
more than 600 cases annually.157 Both police officer and sheriff associations
objected to CJSTC control over local discipline, which led the 1984 Florida
Legislature to restrict the Commission’s discretionary disciplinary authority.
Commission discipline was restricted to “those cases in which the officers’
behavior justified revocation of their certificates.”158 This alteration limited
the number of cases before the Commission and redefined the scope of its
probable cause hearings.
In the early 1990s, several police unions and the Florida Sheriffs
Association sought to restrict Commission control over discipline of
employees in police departments and sheriffs agencies.159 On at least two
major occasions these interest groups were successful in achieving
amendments to the Commission’s enabling statute. In 1981, the Commission
had three possible disciplinary sanctions: (1) denial of initial certification, (2)
suspension of the certificate and (3) revocation of the certificate.160 Local
agencies urged the Florida legislature to expand the range of disciplinary
options available to the Commission, which would make it easier for police
officers to retain their licenses. In 1993, the law was amended to permit the
following sanctions: revocation of certificates; suspension of certificates for
not more than two years; probation for not more than two years, subject to
terms and conditions imposed by the Commission; remedial training and
reprimands.161 This new statute also required the Commission to establish
regulatory guidelines for aggravating and mitigating circumstances; the

156. Sue Carter Collins, A Descriptive Historical Content Analysis of the Disciplinary
Actions Taken by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission Against Policemen in
Florida Who Were Found Guilty of Sexual Harassment Between January 1, 1993 and December
31, 1997 27 (2000) (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State University School of
Criminology and Criminal Justice) (on file with authors). Initially, the grounds for disciplinary
action included: “falsification or willful misrepresentation of information in an employment
application, and gross insubordination, gross immorality, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of
duty, or gross misconduct which seriously reduces the certificate holder’s effectiveness to
function as a law enforcement officer.”
157. Id. at 140.
158. Id.
159. Id. at 141-42.
160. Id. at 139.
161. FLA. STAT. ANN. § 943.1395(7) (West 1996). Under Florida law, the standard of proof for
revocation of an officer’s certificate is clear and convincing evidence, while the standard of proof for
termination by a local agency is preponderance of the evidence. See Latham v. Fla. Comm’n on
Ethics, 694 S.2d 83 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1997). In the case of a local agency termination that does not
result in revocation of the certificate, the officer may obtain employment elsewhere in the state.

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sanctions imposed would be dependent on the aggravating and mitigating
circumstances.162
In 1995, the Florida Sheriffs Association and police union representatives
obtained a further legislative narrowing of CJSTC authority that limited
Commission consideration to matters of serious misconduct.163 The policy
change resulted in a drastic decrease in the number of police misconduct cases
brought to the Commission. It granted local agencies greater discretion than
before in disciplining officers whose conduct did not directly violate the statute
or rules. It has been reported that “the Commission is statutorily required to
‘acknowledge and defer’ when the employing agency administers disciplinary
action that is within the range specified by the Commission. Commission
officials and staff report that the 1995 amendment has resulted in the
Commission giving greater deference to agency action and accountability in
specified circumstances.”164
The Commission responded to these statutory changes by administrative
rules that specified activities comprising a “good moral character” violation.
These rules were designed to limit claims of mitigating and aggravating
circumstances that had restricted Commission disciplinary authority under the
legislative changes in the 1990s. The new rule redefined a “good moral
character” violation as: “the perpetration of an act which would constitute a
felony offense,” testing positive for a controlled substance, and “the
perpetration of certain misdemeanors and non-criminal acts.”165 Additional
officer activities that demonstrate a lack of good moral character include: false
statements, misuse of official position, excessive force and having an
unprofessional relationship with an inmate, detainee, probationer, parolee, or
community controllee.166
IV. STATES WITHOUT REVOCATION POWER
In the most severe cases, police departments should utilize decertification
procedures for officers found to have committed serious abuses. . . . It also
helps to curtail the practice of some “problem” officers who outrun
disciplinary efforts by resigning their positions in one jurisdiction to take up
work in a neighboring jurisdiction in the same state.
. . . All states should revise their statutes or regulations to require that
police chiefs or commissioners report the dismissal or resignation of officers

162. The aggravating and mitigating circumstances are listed in FLA. ADMIN. CODE ANN. r.
11B-27.005(6) (1999).
163. FLA. STAT. ANN. § 943.1395 (8)(c) (West 1996).
164. Collins, supra note 156, at 143.
165. Id. at 148; FLA. ADMIN. CODE ANN. r. 11B-27.0011(4) (1999).
166. FLA. ADMIN. CODE ANN. r. 11B-27.0011(4) (1999).

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accused of serious misconduct. Where decertification procedures currently
167
exist, they should be reinvigorated and fully funded.

As indicated by the trend among the states to adopt revocation authority,
it is only a matter of time after a state adopts minimum standards for
training and sets minimum qualification standards for persons to enter the
training academy, that it will also adopt a law or regulation authorizing
revocation of that certificate for specified misconduct. Thus, it is no surprise
that Washington, a state that prohibits persons who have committed crimes of
moral turpitude from enrolling in the academy, is considering the adoption of
legislation that would revoke the certificate of a graduate of the academy who
later commits the identical misdemeanor that would have prevented the
individual from attending the academy in the first place.
Rhode Island’s Commission on Standards and Training168 is authorized by
statute to establish training standards relating to “minimum standards of . . .
moral fitness which shall govern . . . recruitment [and] selection . . . of police
officers.”169 By regulation, the Commission provides the following entry
standards to its municipal police academy.
Each candidate must successfully undergo a thorough, comprehensive
background and character check by the prospective agency. Those individuals
convicted of a felony and or those convicted of a crime involving moral
turpitude will not be considered for entry into the Academy. Individuals
convicted of a lesser crime which in the opinion of the [Commission] would
effect (sic) that individual’s credibility may also be refused entry into the
170
[Academy].

Under current Rhode Island law, a misdemeanor conviction involving
moral turpitude would keep an individual out of the training academy—and out
of law enforcement—but if the conviction occurred after certification, it is up
to local departments whether or not to employ that individual.

167. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, SHIELDED FROM JUSTICE: POLICE BRUTALITY AND
ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE UNITED STATES 73-74 (1998).
168. By statute, the Rhode Island Commission has no power over the Providence Police
Department with respect to training. R.I. GEN. LAWS § 42-28.2-8 (1993). Similarly, under New
York’s training statute, cities with populations of more than one million people (e.g. New York
City) can be exempted from provisions of the statute if the Council determines its training
standards are higher than those established by the Council. N.Y. EXEC. LAW § 840(1)(h)
(McKinney 1996). New York City has been exempted. A member of the NYCPD is a member
of the Municipal Police Training Council pursuant to N.Y. EXEC. LAW § 839(d) (McKinney
1996).
169. R.I. GEN. LAWS § 42-28.2-8(a) (1993).
170. Facsimile from Glenford J. Shibley, R.I. Mun. Police Acad., to Roger L. Goldman,
Professor, Saint Louis University School of Law, (Dec. 21, 2000) (Entry Standards to the R.I.
Mun. Police Acad., on file with authors).

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Indiana’s Law Enforcement Training Board is required by statute to
establish “[m]inimum standards of . . . moral fitness which shall govern the
acceptance of any person for training by any law enforcement training school
or academy.”171 By rule, the Commission requires that an applicant “shall be
of good reputation and character” and that each “employing department shall
conduct a character and background investigation of each applicant.”172 The
Board prohibits entry into the academy if an applicant has been “convicted of a
felony or any crime involving moral turpitude.”173 A dishonorable discharge
from military service disqualifies the applicant and a discharge other than
honorable may be grounds for rejection.174 In August 2000, the Executive
Director of the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board announced that the
Board is investigating the pros and cons of becoming a POST council,
including the power to “certify and decertify police officers for violating
Federal, State or Local laws and promulgated POST rules.”175
Although logic may suggest a relationship between fitness to enter the
training academy and fitness to keep the certificate once certified, without the
authority to revoke a certificate, states will continue to differentiate between
trainees and certified officers. Thus, the New Jersey Police Training Council
upheld the dismissal of a trainee from a training academy for testing positive
for illegal drugs after a mandatory drug screening, but held that it could not bar
the individual for two years from law enforcement employment, concluding it
lacked jurisdiction concerning the trainee’s future employment.176 Noting that
the Certificate of Completion awarded to recruit officers is not subject to
revocation, the former executive director of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice
Training Council stated: “The Council has no role in the regulation or
enforcement of police discipline other than for student officers while enrolled
in an academy.”177
Revocation states, at a minimum, typically provide that conviction of a
felony is a ground for revocation.178 In the seven states without POST
revocation, whether or not a felony conviction bars serving as a law
171. IND. CODE ANN § 5-2-1-9 (a)(1) (Michie 1997 & Supp. 2000).
172. IND. ADMIN. CODE tit. 250, r.1-3-8 (WESTLAW through 2000).
173. Id. r.1-3-9.
174. Id. r.1-3-11.
175. Ind. Law Enforcement Acad., Message from the Dir. (Aug. 8, 2000), available at
http://www.state.in.us.ilea/director/index.html.
176. Miranda v. Jersey City Police Acad., 92 N.J. Admin. 2d 9 (1992).
177. Letter from Gary F. Egan, Executive Director, Mass. Criminal Justice Training Council,
to Roger L. Goldman, Professor, Saint Louis University School of Law (Aug. 29, 1986) (on file
with authors).
178. This minimum applies as well to pleas of guilty or nolo contendere. There is some
variation as to whether a suspended imposition of a sentence, or suspended execution of a
sentence comes within the language of a felony conviction. It is wise to be specific in the statute
or regulations whether such sentences are intended to result in revocation.

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enforcement officer requires an examination of various sources of state and
local law. For example, in Washington, it is up to each city to set the policy
for its police officers.179 Tacoma, Washington has a policy that a criminal
record is not an absolute bar to employment.180 Spokane, Washington’s policy
provides that a police record may be grounds for rejection.181 In Seattle,
Washington, convicted felons are barred from serving as police officers.182
Washington does bar a person convicted of certain felonies and misdemeanors
from carrying a firearm; however, unlike the federal law, there is no exception
for law enforcement officers.183 Rhode Island bars a felon from carrying a
gun.184 In New York, the general prohibition against felons carrying guns
exempts police officers,185 but the New York City Police Department does not
hire felons.186 In states that revoke only for felony convictions, provision must
be made for cases in which the local authorities refuse to prosecute license
holders. In Texas, a suit to enjoin local authorities from taking action may be
brought by the state attorney general on behalf of the state agency in the
county of the state capital, Travis County.187
In states seeking revocation authority, it is important to be able to present
testimony before the legislature, which gives examples of officers who remain
in a department despite repeated incidents of misconduct, as well as examples
of officers who resign or who are terminated and are then rehired by another
department within the state.188 Newspaper reporters specializing in criminal
justice stories need to examine not only the latest incident of police brutality,
but also find out the history of the officers involved and then follow up to see

179. WASH. REV. CODE. ANN. §§ 41.12.010-41.12.183 (West 1998).
180. City of Tacoma, Job Announcements, Police Patrol Officer – Lateral Entry, Application
for Employment or Promotion, available at http://www.cityoftacoma.org/13Jobs/emplapp2.
pdf?redir=no (last visited Feb 8, 2001).
181. City of Spokane, Employment, Police Officer – Lateral Entry, available at http://www.
spokanecity.org/employment/position.asp?positionID=16 (last visited Feb. 8, 2001).
182. Seattle Police Dep’t, Employment Opportunities Sworn, A Job Like No Other In a City
Like No Other, available at http://www.pan.ci.seattle.wa.us/seattle/spd/employ/employment
two.htm (last visited Feb. 8, 2001).
183. WASH. REV. CODE ANN. § 9.41.040 (West 1998).
184. R.I. GEN. LAWS § 11-47-5 (1993).
185. N.Y. PENAL LAW § 265.20 (2000 & Supp. 2001).
186. N.Y. CIV. SERV. LAW § 50(4)(d) (1999) allows the city to disqualify candidates who
have been found guilty of a crime, either felony or misdemeanor. NYPD disqualifies all felons as
well as persons convicted of a misdemeanor involving domestic violence. E-mail from John
Eterno, Ph.D., Captain, Commanding Officer, Mapping Support Unit, NYCPD, to Roger L.
Goldman, Professor, Saint Louis University School of Law (Dec. 4, 2000) (on file with authors).
187. TEX. GOV’T CODE ANN. § 2001.202 (Vernon 2000).
188. See, e.g., Hearing on H.B. 150 Before the House Comm. on Governmental Organization
(Mo. 1986) (notes taken at the hearing on file with authors).

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where the officer goes next—does he stay on the force189 or does he go to work
in another department in the state or out of state? Citizen groups interested in
the issue can also keep track of the employment patterns of such officers.
Opposition to revocation comes from a variety of sources. According to
the Human Rights Watch study, “of the states we examined . . . without
decertification powers, [it was] largely due to opposition from police
unions.”190 In some states, the ability of local chiefs to handle the matter
without the need for state assistance has been given as a reason for the lack of
revocation authority. For example, in the view of the Deputy Director of
Training at the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council, the
organizational ability of the chiefs in that state would make it “extremely
difficult for an officer to go from one department to another without prior
knowledge of the officer’s fitness for duty.”191 In New Jersey, the director of
that state’s POST pointed out that the centralized structure of New Jersey’s
criminal justice system, including a strong attorney general and powerful
county prosecutors made the need for revocation authority less important than
in states where power was decentralized and officers were not likely to be
disciplined.192
At the same time that states are becoming more involved in addressing police
misconduct at the local level, the U.S. Department of Justice is currently taking
broader steps to require accountability for police departments for civil rights
violations under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.193 By late
2000, the DOJ was investigating or had investigated fourteen police departments.
These departments are located throughout the nation.194 Eleven of the

189. For a recent example in New York, a state without revocation authority, see Michael
Gormley, State Accuses Police Force of Intimidating Citizens, TIMES UNION (Albany, NY), Jan.
19, 2001, at B2 (reporting that several members of Wallkill, New York Police Department were
accused of repeated misconduct).
190. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 167.
191. Letter from Clifford L. Keeling, Deputy Director of Training, Mass. Criminal Justice
Training Council, to Roger L. Goldman, Professor, Saint Louis University School of Law (Aug.
8, 2000) (on file with authors).
192. Interview with Wayne S. Fisher, Director, N.J. Police Training Comm’n, Trenton, N.J.
(May 1, 2000) (notes on file with authors).
193. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Pub. L. No. 104-140, 110
Stat. 1327 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§ 13701-14223 (1994)).
194. The departments under investigation include: Charleston, W. Va.; Riverside, Cal. (both
Police Department and Sheriffs’ Office); Orange County, Fla.; New Orleans, La., Prince George’s
County, Md.; East Point, Mich., Buffalo, N.Y.; New York City, N.Y., Wash., D.C.; Charleston, W.
Va.; and Columbus, Ohio. Consent decrees have been reached with police departments in Pittsburgh,
Pa. and Steubenville, Ohio. See Livingston, supra note 3, at 815-16; Jesse J. Holland, Federal Rights
Panel Urges Congress to Allow Lawsuits for Police Abuses, THE PLAIN DEALER, Nov. 4, 2000, at
11A.

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departments are located in states with revocation power.195 Three departments are
in Ohio and Michigan, states that recently passed revocation statutes.196
V. STRENGTHENING THE REVOCATION POWER IN REVOCATION STATES
In November 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice forced the Los Angeles,
California Police Department to accept supervision by an independent monitor.197
The action was based upon a four-year investigation of police misconduct and
violation of citizens’ civil rights in that police department. Special attention has
been given to police misconduct practices in the city’s poor and largely minority
Ramparts section.198 Federal oversight of this major police department is a
significant new step in relationships between the national government and local
police departments. This federal action challenges the operational assumption
that law enforcement hiring, disciplining and firing practices should remain in the
hands of local police departments.
The involvement of the federal government discussed above suggests the
possibility that it might take such proactive steps under the Department of
Justice’s Office of Community Policing Services (COPS) Program.199 Congress
authorized $8.8 billion for grants to law enforcement agencies to add communitypolicing officers; the one-hundred thousandth officer was funded in May 1999.200
It would surely be within its power to award these grants only if the local
departments were operating in states with effective revocation power; the United
States would have an interest that agencies which it funds are not hiring officers
with a record of previous misconduct, and one way to ensure this is for the agency
to be operating under a statewide revocation system.
Many, but not all, states with revocation power revoke for certain
misdemeanors, typically those involving moral turpitude. As discussed above,
California does not have the power but may get that authority in the future.201
That means an officer who has been convicted of misdemeanors involving
perjury, theft, embezzlement and other crimes indicating doubt about his
honesty is able to serve in law enforcement so long as his department is willing
to employ him. In cases where the officer is going to take the witness stand,
that information will have to be disclosed as exculpatory information under
195. See supra note 36.
196. OHIO REV. CODE. ANN. 109.77 (West Supp. 2000); MICH. STAT. ANN. 4.450 (9b)
(Lexis Supp. 2000).
197. See Holland, supra note 194.
198. “More than 100 convictions were thrown out, and 20 officers left active duty, after officers
were accused of shooting, beating, and framing people in the area.” Id.
199. 42 U.S.C. §§ 13701-14223 (1994).
200. U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, OFFICE OF CMTY. ORIENTED POLICING SERV., COPS 100,000
OFFICERS FUNDED, available at http://www.usdoj.gov./cops_officers_funded_0110-May1999
(last visited Feb. 8, 2001).
201. See supra text accompanying notes 81-86.

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Brady v. California202 and will certainly cast doubt on his credibility before a
jury. For that reason, many states provide that misdemeanor convictions of
this type should result in revocation.
A law revoking the license of law enforcement officers convicted of
felonies and some misdemeanors would ensure that such persons not serve in
law enforcement. However, a revocation law should provide for revocation for
reasons beyond a criminal conviction. The standard for law enforcement
officers should not merely be that the person has not been convicted of a
serious crime. In states with broad grounds for revocation, many officers have
had their certificates revoked for reasons other than conviction of a serious
crime. As discussed above, of the forty-five Missouri officers who had their
certificates revoked in 1999, twenty-two were not convicted of a crime. Had
those officers been certified in states that require a conviction, they would not
risk loss of their certificates either for coercing a suspect into having sex in
exchange for urging the dropping of criminal charges, or for beating an inmate
who is in custody. Abuse of one’s law enforcement position, lying, or gross
incompetence may not lead to prosecution, but it should, in appropriate cases,
keep individuals out of law enforcement jobs. For that reason, many states
provide that not only is a criminal conviction a ground to revoke, but also the
commission of such conduct, after an administrative hearing, is a ground to
revoke.
Some states also provide that termination from a local department is
grounds for revocation. An officer could be terminated for reasons having
nothing to do with misconduct, for example, whistle blowing, political
differences with his chief, etc. Termination alone, without consideration of the
reasons, should not trigger revocation.
The scope of a revocation statute should include more than law
enforcement officials. Corrections officers have immense power over inmates.
The experience in Florida, which includes corrections officers, has been that
more corrections officers are having their certificates revoked than law
enforcement officers.203 Careful study needs to be done into whether officers
who are terminated from their departments and officers whose certificates have
been revoked are becoming private security guards. If this is the case, states
should also have the authority to decertify private security guards, especially if
they have the power to carry concealed weapons and to arrest. Oregon, one of
the few states that is authorized to revoke the certificates of private security
202. 380 U.S. 924 (1964).
203. In each year from 1995 to 1999 there was a greater number of revocations for corrections
officers, excluding corrections probation officers. For example, in 1999, 186 correction officers’
licenses were revoked in contrast to revocation for 120 law enforcement officers. FLORIDA DEP’T
OF LAW ENFORCEMENT, CRIMINAL JUSTICE STANDARDS AND TRAINING COMM’N, PROBABLE
CAUSE AND DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS, STATISTICAL REPORT, OFFICER DISCIPLINE SECTION
(1999) (on file with authors).

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guards, had more revocations of private security guard certificates than any
other occupation in 1999.204
To insure that departments report revocable conduct to POSTs, there needs
to be a qualified immunity for reporting in good faith.205 The POST should
keep records of all terminations and resignations with reasons for the
termination or resignation, including whether the department for which the
individual worked would rehire the person.206 The immunity should apply to
reporting from local agencies to the POST207 and from one local law
enforcement agency to another.208 It should also apply to private employers of
an employee who seeks a job in law enforcement.209
Most states rely on local departments to report to the POST misconduct
that could lead to revocation.210 However, if the head of the department
himself is implicated in misconduct, there should be alternative methods for
triggering POST involvement.211 Minnesota provides that citizens may trigger
action by POST: “A person with knowledge of conduct constituting grounds
for action . . . may report the violation to the board.”212
At the time of the authors’ first article on revocation in 1987, thirteen
states did not have the power to revoke or suspend certificates. Since that
time, six of those states have been granted the authority, four since 1996.213 Of
the seven states currently without revocation authority, it is likely that

204. See supra notes 110-112 and accompanying text.
205. For examples of state laws granting such immunity, see Puro et al., Changing Patterns
Among the States, supra note 11, at 492-94.
206. This recommendation would apply even to those states without the power to revoke as it
could reveal whether there is, in fact, a problem of officers leaving one department under
questionable circumstances and going to another department within the state. Further, this
information will be necessary if a national data bank is ever set up.
207. See, e.g., PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE IMPROVEMENTS TO CHAPTER 590 MO. REV. STAT. §
590.180 (5) (2000) (on file with authors).
208. See, e.g., VA. CODE ANN. § 15.2-1709 (Michie 1994).
209. See, e.g., CAL. GOV’T CODE § 1031.1 (West 1995). The findings of the California
legislature were: “Law enforcement agencies have increasingly experienced refusals from
employers to divulge information pertinent to peace officer applicants even with signed release
waivers from applicants themselves, and this situation has seriously affected law enforcement’s
ability to conduct a thorough background investigation.” See id. (reprinting Historical and
Statutory Notes).
210. For example, see FLA. STAT. ANN. § 943.1395 (5) (West 1996), which requires the local
agency to investigate if it has cause to suspect the officer has committed a revocable offense and
submit its findings to the CJST.
211. For an example of a chief’s involvement in misconduct in the context of an out-ofcontrol department, see Bob Herbert, Police Predators, NY TIMES, Jan. 25, 2001, at A27
(describing conditions in Wallkill, New York police department). New York is one of the seven
states without revocation authority.
212. Minn R. 6700.1610(1) (LEXIS through 1998).
213. See supra note 37.

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Washington will be granted such authority in 2001, and the Indiana
Commission is also currently considering the adoption of revocation
authority.214
VI. NATIONAL DATA BANK
Federal legislation should be introduced that would link the data currently
collected by state POSTs so that ‘problem’ or abusive officers are not allowed
215
to obtain law enforcement employment in a neighboring state.

A nationwide data bank for police officers authorized by Congress along
the model of the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB),216 which contains
information about errant behavior by medical professionals, would allow states
to share data about police officers’ misconduct. The International Association
of Chiefs of Police (IACP) supported a bill, the Law Enforcement and
Correctional Officers Employment Registration Act of 1996,217 which would
have established in the Department of Justice a registry listing all criminal
justice agencies for which an officer had worked. Additionally, it would have
reported the fact that the officer had his state certification revoked. With the
federal government involved in the hiring of 100,000 new law enforcement
officers under the COPS program,218 it clearly has an interest in a system
which would help ensure that officers it funds, or with whom these officers
work, are not persons who are unfit for the job.
The person responsible for proposing the Registration Act was the
Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, James T.
Moore, whose prepared statement at a hearing before the House Subcommittee
on Crime cited the West Palm Beach case219 as the reason such a law was
needed. He stated: “The Florida police agency employing the officers had
hired them without realizing that both officers had records of police
misconduct with previous police employers . . . . [H]ad their records been
known when they applied for their police jobs, they would have never been
hired.”220 Opposition to the proposal focused on the reporting of revocation of
certificates, the granting of qualified immunity for agencies and individuals
who provided information under the bill, and the lack of evidence that there

214. See supra note 175.
215. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, supra note 167, at 74.
216. The National Practitioner Data Bank was authorized under Part B of the Healthcare
Quality Improvement Act of 1986, Pub. L. No. 99-660, 100 Stat. 3784 (codified at 42 U.S.C. §§
11101-11152 (1994)).
217. H.R. 3263, 104th Cong. (1996); S. 484, 104th Cong. (1995).
218. See the COPS program discussion, supra note 199.
219. See discussion of the West Palm Beach case supra text accompanying notes 128-132.
220. Police Officers’ Rights and Benefits: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Crime of the
Committee in the Judiciary House of Representatives, 104th Cong. 2, 175 (1996).

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was a problem with unfit officers moving from state to state.221 The bill never
made it out of the committee. The bill was one of several concerning police
issues, including a bill establishing a Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights
in the conduct of internal police investigations,222 none of which was enacted.
The passage of the NPDB for doctors was accompanied by the enactment, in
the same bill, of a qualified immunity from the antitrust laws for physician
staff committees in hospitals who decide whether doctors are to be given staff
privileges at hospitals.223 It may be that, for a National Data Bank for Law
Enforcement Officers to be enacted, there must be a similar “carrot” for
officers in terms of better due process protection in the administration of
investigation and discipline in local police departments.
If the bill had passed, would it have prevented the hiring of the officers
who killed Robert Jewett? That is, if the police agencies where the two
officers had formerly worked were contacted, would the former chiefs have
mentioned the prior misbehavior of the officers? In the case of one of the
officers who had worked in Tennessee, he and the chief had agreed that no
unfavorable information would be disclosed.224 In other cases of officers
leaving one department and going to another,225 such unfavorable information
was not disclosed to the second chief. The findings of the bill indicated that
the misconduct at prior police departments would be listed in the data bank.
That section stated, “there have been numerous documented cases of officers
who have obtained officer employment and certification in a State after
revocation of officer certification or dishonorable discharge in another
State.”226 In the implementation section of the bill, there was no requirement
that the reason for the discharge be reported. Without qualified immunity for
sharing such information among police agencies,227 chiefs will remain
reluctant to come forward with information for fear of defamation suits.
221. In support of the need for the doctor’s NPDB, a study was conducted by the GAO of
doctors who were licensed in two states and lost their license in one state. In thirty-seven percent
of the cases, the doctor kept his license in the second state. GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
REPORT TO THE SEC’Y OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, SANCTIONED PRACTITIONERS MOVE
TO OTHER STATES AND TREAT MEDICARE AND MEDICAID PATIENTS 8 (1984) (on file with
authors).
222. H.R. 878, 104th Cong. (1995).
223. 42 U.S.C. § 11111 (1994).
224. Violation of such agreements has been held to be a breach of contract. See Nadeau v.
County of Ramsey, 277 N.W.2d 520 (Minn. 1979).
225. See discussion of Carney v. White, 843 F. Supp. 462 (E.D. Wis. 1994) and Doe v.
Wright, 82 F.3d 265, 267 (8th Cir. 1996), supra text accompanying notes 24-30.
226. H.R. 3263, 104th Cong. § 2(3) (1996).
227. Arizona provides such immunity: “On request of a law enforcement agency conducting a
background investigation of an applicant for the position of a peace officer, another law
enforcement agency employing, previously employing or having conducted a complete or partial
background investigation on the applicant shall advise the requesting agency of any known

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As a practical matter, it will be difficult for states to create the database
contemplated in the bill unless a state agency has information on the
employment history of each officer who had been issued a certificate from a
training academy. States that require only training of officers are unlikely to
keep up with the employment status of the graduates of their training
academies.228 States that have revocation power are likely to have this
information since the typical statute requires local agencies to report any
resignation or termination to the POST.229 Unlike the NPDB for medical
professionals, which lists only those professionals who have engaged in
specified misbehavior,230 all law enforcement and correctional officers would
have been listed on the proposed police registry. This prompted then U.S.
Representative Charles Schumer to say: “We have a list of every officer in the
country. When we’re concerned only about so-called rogue officers, why not
just list the few bad officers?”231
An alternative that would not involve federal action is data sharing among
state POSTs to create a data bank of police officers whose certificates have
been revoked.232 All POSTs would benefit by participating in such a program
whether or not they had revocation power. POSTs would be able to get the
misconduct in violation of the rules for retention established pursuant to § 41-1822, subsection A,
paragraph 3.” ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 41-1828.01(B) (West 1999). Civil liability may not be
imposed for providing such information “if there exists a good faith belief that the information is
accurate.” Id. § 41-1828.01 (C). After the West Palm Beach case, the Florida Department of
Law Enforcement in 1992 adopted a system which lists all criminal justice officers in the state,
current and former, their employment history in law enforcement, whether they have been
separated from an agency, and whether the officer’s certificate has ever been revoked. The
information is available to all Florida criminal justice agencies. See discussion of Moore’s
prepared statement in text accompanying supra note 220. Texas requires chief administrators to
report to the Commission resignations and terminations, and the reasons therefore, which will be
released to the chief administrator of criminal justice agencies when a written request on agency
letterhead is made. See 37 TEX. ADMIN. CODE §§ 221.5- 7 (West 2000).
228. New York, a state without revocation power, does have a central state registry of peace
officers and requires local agencies to keep the State Division of Criminal Justice Services up to
date on officers who are no longer working for the agency. N.Y. COMP. CODES R. & REGS tit. 9,
§ 6056.5 (2000).
229. FLA. STAT. ANN. § 943.139(1) (West 1996); MO. CODE. REGS. ANN. tit.11, § 75-1.010
(1997).
230. The reasons for reporting to the NPDB for medical professionals include: loss of state
licensure or other sanctions by the state medical board; loss of staff privileges for more than thirty
days; and malpractice judgments or settlements. 42 U.S.C. §§ 11131-11133 (1994).
231. Police Officers’ Rights and Benefits: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Crime of the
Committee in the Judiciary House of Representatives, 104th Cong. 2, 37 (1996) (statement of
Representative Charles Schumer).
232. Such a system is in place for lawyers. The National Discipline Data Bank is run by the
American Bar Association and contains information concerning public discipline of lawyers by
state bar associations and state and federal courts. For statistical information, see ABA
STANDING COMM’N ON PROF’L DISCIPLINE DATA BANK, STATISTICAL REPORT (1992).

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information immediately without having to contact local police departments.
IADLEST has begun the National Decertification Database (NDD), which lists
the name, date of birth and Social Security Number of officers whose
certificates have been revoked for cause. Only Idaho is currently supplying
information.233 The information is disclosed only to member agencies. Other
states already publish revocation information elsewhere as a matter of public
record234 and it seems inevitable that, despite opposition to disclosure of this
information during the hearings on the proposed federal data bank, the
information will soon be available to all POSTs.
VII. CONCLUSION
As law enforcement becomes more accepted as a profession regulated by
the state, it is only a matter of time before all states will have the power to
revoke the certificate or license of unfit officers, and those states that have
weak revocation authority will strengthen it. It is ironic that this power already
exists for virtually every other profession but not for police officers with the
authority to arrest and use deadly force. The reasons why there has not been a
public demand for state power to discipline police include: the tradition of
local control of police, so that most people are unaware the state already is
heavily involved in training and standards; the absence of public awareness of
the kinds of incidents of police misconduct discussed in this article; the
assumption that attempts to control police misconduct will hamper effective
law enforcement; the belief that the problem of police misconduct is one that
affects only minority and poor communities; the legislators’ fear that if they
support revocation, they will be labeled “pro-criminal”; and the opposition of
police unions who fear that the state will abuse the power.235
In order for revocation to be adopted in those states that do not currently
have it and strengthened in those states that do, the lead must be taken by local
and state law enforcement professionals who can best make the point that
revocation is necessary in order to enhance the professionalism of law
enforcement. Legislators, regardless of party affiliation, who are concerned
about ethical conduct by public officials, including the police, will be
supportive of these efforts. Journalists who report on issues of police
misconduct are the best resource for communicating the nature of the problem,
particularly if they focus on officers who repeatedly abuse citizens. Citizen

233. Facsimile from Ray Franklin, Operations Manager, NDD, to Roger L. Goldman,
Professor, Saint Louis University School of Law (Jan. 12, 2001) (on file with authors).
234. For example, Missouri publishes the name of the officer, the grounds for discipline, and
the sanction imposed, whether for revocation or some lesser punishment. Currently, the NDD
only lists revocations.
235. Most law enforcement officers are supportive of revocation. After all, who wants to
have a partner who is obviously unfit to serve and can only get ethical officers into trouble?

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groups that regularly monitor police misconduct are the best sources for
identifying the problem officers in communities and states.
It is clearly unrealistic to expect local police departments and
municipalities to solve the problems discussed in this article, because they are
often not concerned about whether an unfit officer remains in law enforcement
once that officer has left the force. There is no better example than the
Webster Groves, Missouri, example discussed above.236 This was the case in
which four officers were discharged or resigned for taking part in nude hot tub
parties with two girls, aged sixteen and seventeen. The city reported the firing
of three officers to the Missouri POST but did not report the resignation of the
fourth officer. Upon being asked why the state was not alerted to the
involvement of the officer that resigned, the mayor, with remarkable candor,
said: “The important issue here is that the police officers accused of doing
these things are not with the Webster Groves Department.”237
No state assumes that the public interest is adequately protected by leaving
the ultimate discipline of lawyers and doctors up to law firms and hospitals.
Rather, state bar associations cooperate with state supreme courts to disbar
unfit lawyers and state medical boards revoke the licenses of unfit doctors.
Similarly, given the costs to our society of unfit police officers, the final
decision of whether or not a person remains in law enforcement cannot be left
up to local departments. There is at least as great a need for state POSTs to
serve a function with respect to unfit police officers similar to that of state bar
associations and medical boards with respect to unfit lawyers and doctors.
Unfortunately, it often takes a tragic incident that results in a public outcry to
get police officer revocation legislation enacted.238 There is no excuse for the
few remaining states without revocation authority to delay any longer in
getting such laws enacted.

236. See discussion in text accompanying supra notes 43-44.
237. See supra note 43.
238. Minnesota’s revocation law was enacted in 1977, after the failure to indict several police
officers involved in shooting incidents, one of which resulted in the death of the son of a wellknown civil rights activists. FRANCES STOKES BERRY, INNOVATIONS, LICENSING PROFESSIONAL
PEACE OFFICERS: MINNESOTA’S PEACE OFFICER STANDARDS AND TRAINING BOARD 3 (1982).
Florida’s revocation law was passed in 1980 after the acquittal of several white Miami police
officers for allegedly beating a black motorcyclist to death after a chase for a minor traffic
violation. See Puro & Goldman, A Remedy for Police Misconduct, supra note 11, at 121.

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