BG: We have four principal findings. First, during any given year, there are about 1,100 full-time law enforcement officers working in Florida who had been previously fired from other Florida agencies — that’s roughly 3 percent of all full-time law enforcement officers working in the state. Second, police officers who are fired tend to get rehired by another agency within three years. Third, officers who’ve been fired and land another job tend to move to smaller agencies with fewer resources and slightly larger communities of color. Finally, when a wandering officer gets hired by a new agency, they tend to get fired about twice as often as other officers and are more likely to receive “moral character violations,” both in general and for physical and sexual misconduct.
NL & MJ: If wandering officers are so risky, why do agencies keep hiring them?
BG: One possibility is a lack of knowledge — maybe they didn’t run a background check, or they ran a background check, and it wasn’t effective. There are state-level and even national decertification databases, but there are big holes in these databases that make it hard to get all the information you need.
Another possibility is that police departments know they’re hiring wandering officers, but they’re not aware of the risk of doing so. And a final possibility is that they know they’re hiring wandering officers, they know that they’re risky, and they’re doing it anyway. That could be because law-enforcement agencies are highly immunized from legal liability. And, as we’ve seen in the past few weeks, there can be a band-of-brothers ethos among police officers, where they feel that they are duty bound to unconditionally support each other.