50 signatures reached
To: Michigan Legislators and Governor
Weed Out Bad Cops
Add “police officers” to the list of professionals who can lose their state licenses when they prove incompetent.
Why is this important?
Most police misconduct is caused by a few problem officers who have records of repeated complaints. Those few bad actors cause the public to distrust the police in general, and they make it hard for the overwhelming majority of competent officers to do their work. It’s in everybody’s interest to “weed out bad cops” from the profession.
In Michigan the people responsible for licensing police officers – the “Commission on Law Enforcement Standards” -- are appointed by the Governor. The commission trains and gives licenses to young officers but has almost no power to take licenses away in mid-career from officers who prove incompetent.
About the only way the Commission can take away an officer’s license is if the officer is convicted of a crime.
Prosecuting bad police officers as if they were criminals is not a good idea. It’s too hard and often too harsh.
Prosecuting cops is too hard. In practice it is almost impossible to convict a police officer of a crime. Juries rarely convict. Prosecutors rarely bring charges.
Prosecuting police officers is too harsh. Cops are workers. We don’t usually put workers in jail if they are incompetent; we take them off work. Incompetent cops don’t usually need to be sent to prison; they just need to be taken off work.
Since the Commission does not have the power to take licenses away from officers who prove incompetent, the main way members of the public can take action against an allegedly incompetent officer is to file a complaint with the police department.
Leaving local departments to handle complaints against police officers is a bad idea. Police chiefs and sheriffs have bonds of loyalty and conflicts of interest. They almost always exonerate themselves and their colleagues. Even if a local department fires an officer it cannot take away the officer’s state license. A licensed officer fired in one town is free to find work in any other town. Do a search on “Gypsy Cops” for examples of how this works.
Police officers are professionals. The state frequently takes away licenses from professionals who prove incompetent. There is no good reason why we shouldn’t treat incompetent police officers the same way we treat other professionals – nurses, teachers, accountants, electricians, plumbers, real estate brokers, builders, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, counselors, social workers, psychologists, optometrists, pharmacists, cosmetologists, barbers, architects, lawyers, stock brokers, engineers, undertakers, insurance agents, and on and on.