A recent piece in the New York Times highlights how many police officers have been able to continue work at a department in a different region, even after receiving formal bans from their local department.
One officer in an Oregon town named Sean Sullivan was caught kissing a 10-year-old girl on duty and was formally banned from working as an officer again— only to be hired again as a police chief in a city in Kansas.
Predictably, Sullivan got into more trouble; this time not only for having inappropriate relations with another underage girl, but on charges of burglary and criminal conspiracy.
His prosecutor in the Kansas case noted, “it was very irritating because he never should have been a police officer.”
Now, Sullivan is in prison on yet other charges, including possession of meth and identity theft.
The Times points out that a big reason that there are problem officers like Sullivan out there is because background checks are often spotty. Many departments don’t even do fingerprints.
This issue of problem officers has become particularly big in the media after controversial killings by and of cops.
There is no formal system that connects law enforcement agencies with one another in the U.S., in large part due to a lack of federal standards. Police executives and unions have also been largely opposed to conducting thorough background checks.
The article does point out, however, that many departments in the U.S. do perform their due diligence, subjecting applicants to psychological tests, in addition to administering polygraphs and checking credit histories.
Still, the article points out there are quite a few more cases of bad apples than would be ideal.