This recent PBS story gobsmacked me:

San Francisco may stop hiring cops with records of misconduct

The demand to reform police departments is causing some local governments to look at new regulations and laws. In San Francisco, the board of supervisors is considering a resolution introduced last week that would urge the civil service commission there to prohibit hiring officers with a history of serious misconduct.

They "may" stop hiring officers with a history of "serious misconduct"?!?! They have to "urge" the civil service commission?!?!

I am literally astonished such a resolution would even need to be "considered". I would have thought that a police officer with a documented record of "serious misconduct" would be precluded from working as a police officer again just about anywhere.

From four+ years ago (warning - approx 700-page PDF):



There are no comprehensive statistics available on problems with police integrity, and no government entity collects data on all criminal arrests of law enforcement officers in the United States. Police crimes are those crimes committed by sworn law enforcement officers with the general powers of arrest. These crimes can occur while the officer is either on- or off-duty and include offenses committed by officers employed by state and local law enforcement agencies. This study provides a wealth of data on a phenomena that relates directly to police integrity—data that previously did not exist in any useable format.

Yet, per this footnote 4 on page 82 regarding job losses by law enforcement officers, officer misconduct seems to be kept confidential, potentially enabling job-hopping by miscreant officers:

The research interest with this variable is in sworn law enforcement officers who lost their jobs (either through involuntary termination or voluntary resignation). A coding protocol decision was made to focus on what our data would support, which is job loss. We operationalize kept job as those cases where the arrested officer is not known by us to have lost their job. Data collection efforts on this variable often resulted in missing data from the open source information because in many jurisdictions final adverse employment outcomes are treated as confidential personnel records.

But that's several years old. Are there now any actual statistics, studies, or other documentation on police crime and/or other misconduct that indicate that there is a pattern in the US of abusive law enforcement officers moving from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in order to escape accountability?

In other words, are law enforcement officers in the US who lose their jobs because they acted abusively able, in general, to continue working as law enforcement officers simply by going somewhere else?

Published, peer-reviewed research would be the best documentation, as anecdotal answers in a country with 320 million+ residents are effectively meaningless.

  • Good luck with published/peer-reviewed research.
    – CGCampbell
    Jun 9 '20 at 19:32
  • 1
    @CGCampbell I know. But maybe someone can find something or knows of something that's escaped search engines for some reason. I've been looking since I saw that article. You'd think with just about every college in the US having some sort of criminology program someone would have dug into this.
    – Just Me
    Jun 9 '20 at 19:39
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    Why would they have to move around to escape accountability, when accountability has been pretty much nonexistent? IOW, I think you first need to show that there actually have been a significant number of police officers losing their jobs for acting abusively.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 10 '20 at 4:41
  • @jamesqf Cutting through the fog of hush money and NDAs, err, settlements will be tough, but I hope that a pattern of post-incident movement connected by individual officers would be easier to identify than isolated incidents - the image I have in my mind is straight lines in a white-noise image. Even tiny lines would stand out.
    – Just Me
    Jun 10 '20 at 22:43
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    Just remember that investigations will not be initiated if the officer quit before the investigation has begun in the US. Jun 11 '20 at 9:17

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