The OTHER Government Revolving Door: Sheriff's Departments, State Troopers Provide New Homes For Bad Cops
from the I-wouldn't-join-any-club-that-would-take-me-as-a-member dept
It’s not just our nation’s legislators that enjoy a “revolving door” — one that moves them from Congress to the private sector and back again, to the mutual benefit of legislators and certain industries… not so much the rest of America.
There’s another revolving door out there — one that keeps bad cops employed in the law enforcement sector. It’s incredibly difficult for police departments to shed their “bad apples,” what with police unions pushing back hard on the few occasions that the blue line fails to hold. But even if they do manage to cut one loose, there’s a good chance this former officer will just end up carrying a badge and gun for someone else.
As we covered earlier this year, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department made sure a plethora of bad cops weren’t hurting for money, either by bringing them on board directly or placing them in open positions at the jails under its control.
For nearly 100 hires, investigators discovered evidence of dishonesty, such as making untrue statements or falsifying police records. At least 15 were caught cheating on the department’s own polygraph exams.
Twenty-nine of those given jobs had previously had been fired or pressured to resign from other law enforcement agencies over concerns about misconduct or workplace performance problems. Nearly 200 had been rejected from other agencies because of past misdeeds, failed entrance exams or other issues.
Out in Lincoln, Nebraska, other law enforcement agencies are acting as halfway houses for police officers with a history of misconduct.
John McGahan, the Lincoln Police Department’s 2013 Officer of the Year who resigned this year after Internal Affairs accused him of using excessive force, is now working at the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
A second police officer accused of using excessive force, Jeremy Wilhelm, is a trooper candidate with the Nebraska State Patrol.
Here’s some more uniform-switching, this time in Ohio.
Former New Albany Police officer Steve Mowery faced several accusations of misconduct while he worked for that force… Mowery allegedly used excessive force against a teenager and was sued. That case was settled, according to those who were involved.
Mowery resigned before the police department could make a final recommendation for discipline, according to sources at the New Albany Police Department.
Today, Mowery works as a deputy for the Lucas County Sheriff’s office in the Toledo area.
Thanks to WBNS-10TV, the Sheriff’s office is finally looking into Mowery’s law enforcement record. But Mowery isn’t an anomaly.
[F]ormer Nelsonville police officer Randy Secoy was hired despite a reprimand from the Athens County Sheriff’s office for his “inability to control his anger.” Secoy made the news last year after surveillance video showed him lunging toward a seated teenager and forcefully gripping the teen’s throat.
Franklin Township Police Chief Allan Wheeler has hired multiple officers who have had troubles elsewhere. One officer resigned his position as a police chief at Marietta College in eastern Ohio… Printed reports that are still available online say that the former Marietta College Police chief was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a woman and stalking her.
From Florida, here’s the story of a well-traveled officer who might just be “the most crooked cop in America.”
[Major Joseph] Floyd joined the Crestview Police Department in the Florida Panhandle in 2007 after a brief stint with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. Unbeknownst to his new colleagues at the time of his hiring, Floyd had a rap sheet that stretched back more than a decade. Over the course of eight years, Floyd was terminated, forced to resign, or quit three police departments while under investigation for insubordination, lying, and falsifying records. Before becoming a cop, Floyd had been arrested for battery, disorderly conduct, and assaulting a law enforcement officer.
The article at Reason details some of Floyd’s past misconduct, which includes having subordinates tase unresisting suspects, planting evidence, striking suspects with rifles and referring to female officers as “department whores.” Charming. And yet, apparently still employable. (Here’s the 11-page indictment.)
[Roy] Logan was fired in 2001 from his last job as a licensed peace officer before becoming a Precinct 5 deputy. His explanation on a Dallas County job application: “terminated by newly elected sheriff.”
Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes said Logan was fired after a Texas Department of Public Safety officer reported seeing him playing an eight-liner gambling machine while on duty – about eight months after Byrnes took office.
Deputy Constable Juston Coffman resigned from the Celina (TX) Police Department after having been disciplined “several times.” He found a new home as a school district police officer.
More from Texas. Nearly half of Jonestown’s seven-member police force had a history of misconduct. (Two were immediately fired by an interim police chief earlier this year.)
Yvonne Gunnlaugsson had been suspended several times from the Austin Police Department before retiring under a cloud in 2005, public records show. She’d come to work for Jonestown a short time later…
Gunnlaugsson had compiled a long list of infractions as an Austin police officer. She’d been suspended six times, including for wrecking a patrol car after falling asleep and for failing to interview a suspect who had been identified by a robbery victim. Her involvement in another case led to a federal lawsuit against the city that raised questions about her judgment while responding to a call.
Andre Anderson, was sacked from the Jonestown department May 7. An internal investigation accused him of omitting an important piece of history from his job application: He’d lost his job at the Travis County sheriff’s office in 2001, after acknowledging he’d had sex with two inmates while they were in custody.
The third officer, still employed at this point, was suspended and fired by the Georgetown Police Dept. for failing to investigate suspected crimes.
Another police officer from elsewhere in the state managed to parlay being fired for drunken driving (and being named in a wrongful death suit that resulted in a $750,000 settlement) into a new position as a sheriff’s deputy in another county.
The problem is so pervasive it has its own term: gypsy cops. Moving from agency to agency tends to obscure incriminating paper trails, especially if the switch involves moving from a city agency (police department) to a county agency (sheriff’s department) or state agency (state troopers, highway patrol). Changes in background check requirements and decertification stipulations can be abused to keep bad law enforcement officers employed by law enforcement agencies.
The background checks themselves are their own problem. Agencies have been known to hire officers who’ve failed checks or while background checks were still pending. For smaller agencies or those pressured to add officers, these background checks may not be as thorough — if they’re even performed at all.
Police union pressure has led to legislation that further insulates police officers from being held accountable for their actions. Called a “law enforcement bill of rights,” it’s actually a long list of extra rights that makes it nearly impossible to fire bad cops, much less have their misconduct harm their future employment prospects. Mike Riggs’ writeup of these special, police-only due process “rights” is eye-opening. And infuriating.
At this point, it pretty much takes a felony conviction to ensure a fired cop won’t just end up wearing a different badge somewhere else. Most police departments aren’t willing to battle police unions to ensure fired cops stay out of circulation. Neutral references are given instead of recommendations against hiring. Dishonorable discharges are upgraded to honorable or “general.”
Those doing the hiring are also falling down on the job. When pressed about hires of cops with negative histories, those responsible for their continued employment plead ignorance. Despite the fact that these incidents are usually part of public records, law enforcement agency heads act as though it’s everyone else’s job to perform their due diligence. To some extent, it is. Those integral to the hiring process should be more thorough. But ultimately, the buck stops at the top. There’s enough information out there that bad cops should only slip through the cracks of the vetting system on rare occasions, rather than finding open doors nearly everywhere they look. The problem with bad cops will never go away if they can simply become some other agency’s “bad apple” just by filling out a job application.