A police officer who causes someone’s death or serious injury while violating their civil rights can be dismissed from their job, but there’s nothing in Louisiana law that prevents rogue officers from being hired by another department. In fact, there’s nothing that compels their termination in the first place.
A bill making its way through the Legislature proposes to close that loophole. Senate Bill 182, sponsored by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, passed the chamber unanimously Thursday with little discussion and is now in the House for consideration. It would change a provision in state law regarding the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification that law enforcement agencies require most officers to hold and when such certification should be revoked.
The legislation went through several changes from when Fields first introduced it with the intent to expand the list of options for revoking a police officer’s certification, which is done through Louisiana’s POST Council.
The bill initially added a provision that would have mandated that an officer’s certification be revoked if there was a criminal finding against an officer for violating someone’s constitutional rights. However, that language was changed to provide for revocation only if the officer kills or seriously injures someone in such an incident.
A second provision in the bill would allow the POST Council to consider revoking an officer’s certification if the officer is fired or allowed to retire or resign as a result of being disciplined for an unauthorized use of force. That detail was left in the bill.
An earlier committee amendment pushed by the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, a lobbyist group that influences much of the legislation involving law enforcement matters, would have removed existing provisions in the law that allow an officer’s certification to be revoked if the officer is convicted of any felony or of misdemeanor domestic abuse. That language was added to the statute just five years ago in an effort to reduce the number of officers who transfer to other agencies each time they are fired for misconduct.
Last week, the amendment sailed through the Senate Judiciary B Committee with no debate. When asked about it the following day, Fields expressed concern that a mistake might have been made.
“That’s not what I intended it to do,” he said of the early committee amendment that removed the ability to revoke certification if an officer is convicted of a felony or of misdemeanor domestic abuse.
When the bill was up for passage on the Senate floor Thursday, Fields introduced an amendment to correct what he called a “glitch” in the previous version of the bill. The legislation, as amended and passed by the Senate, left alone the provisions dealing with felony convictions and misdemeanor domestic abuse.
Fields said the Sheriffs’ Association and Louisiana District Attorney Association are in full support of the latest version.
There was no response for requests for comment from the Sheriffs’ Association and the president of its executive committee, Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi.
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