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Bill Seeks To Reduce Police Liability – Increase Hiring Transparency

Police Car
Wikipedia Media Commons

Legislation meant to improve law enforcement hiring practices made it through the state Senate Thursday.

Right now, human resource units in police departments are reluctant to tell other departments anything about a former officer besides their name and when they worked for them out of fear of litigation if the officer doesn’t get the job.

Senator Jones says the legislation is meant to prevent bad officers from hopping from department to department.  Jones said, “99.9 percent of all officers are the finest people in the world.  But once in a while, you get a bad apple.”

The unanimously passed legislation would require departments to keep employee records and make them available to other departments considering hiring an officer.  It would also make departments handing over the records immune from civil litigation.

Bob Stevenson is the executive director for the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.  He said their department has not taken a stance on this specific bill, but they favor the policy generally.

“If you have an officer that’s bad, even though that’s rare, we think that any perspective employer should definitely have access to the deeds that that person has done, without fear of liability,” Stevenson said. 

Stevenson said some departments will also have officers sign a waiver to release their records.  The Michigan State Police has a department-wide policy similar to the legislation already in place. 

Sheriffs, chiefs of police and state police – all think the legislation is a good idea, Jones, a former sheriff, said. 

“Law enforcement has the power of life and death and has the power to arrest citizens,” he said.  “So we want to make sure we have the finest individuals out there working.”

However, there have been concerns expressed the policy could make it harder to get rid of bad cops.  That’s because police agencies from a management perspective sometimes make deals about releasing or documenting information as a way to get officers to resign. 

Stevenson said this wasn’t a concern from a police chief’s perspective because, “The truth is the truth.”

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

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