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Date published: 10/3/2012
RICHMOND--Some Virginia police officers who are found unfit to serve because of convictions or other problems may be losing their jobs but keeping their certification, allowing them to find another position in law enforcement, the Virginia State Crime Commission was told Tuesday.
The issue arose when the commission heard a comprehensive report on law enforcement training academies. The panel took no action but is expected to revisit the matter before the 2013 General Assembly convenes in January.
Staff member Christina Arrington told the commission that state law allows decertification of a police officer for a felony conviction, failing to meet training requirements and failing or refusing to submit to a drug test. However, in practice an officer can lose certification only if the transgression is reported to the Criminal Justice Services Board--and that doesn't appear to be happening very often. Only four officers have been decertified over the last two years.
"It is lower than we would expect," Arrington said.
Chesapeake Commonwealth's Attorney Nancy Parr, a commission member, backed up that observation. In her jurisdiction alone, she said, two officers have recently been convicted of felonies.
Arrington said some police chiefs and sheriffs apparently are allowing offenders to resign and not reporting them for decertification. The problem with that, she said, is that the offender often can get a job with another agency happy to hire a candidate whose training has already been paid for by someone else.
"There's a heck of a lot of room for a legislative fix," said commission member Jim Plowman, the commonwealth's attorney for Loudoun County.
Options listed in the
Plowman said police officers as a whole probably would welcome a stronger decertification process.
"When you get a bad egg it makes the rest of them look bad, and they want them gone, too," Plowman said.
Another problem outlined in Arrington's report was financial instability for Virginia's 38 criminal justice training academies because of decreased state funding and a trend of agencies withdrawing from regional academies to create their own.