When it comes to police misconduct, disciplining officers for wrongdoing is one of the hardest parts of a police chief’s job.
The process for disciplining police officers can vary greatly from city to city, state to state and department to department. Police officers can be disciplined for a number of things, including excessive force, criminal misconduct, and malfeasance, among other things.
In Oklahoma, if a police officer is fired or resigns because of an internal investigation, police departments are required to notify the Council on Law Enforcement Education within 30 days of the officer leaving.
What kinds of discipline can officers face for misconduct?
The punishment for police misconduct is handled on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the infraction, punishments could include:
- Being banned from doing police work in Oklahoma indefinitely (if the officer is convicted of a felony for domestic violence crimes or crimes of a “moral turpitude)
- A letter of reprimand
- Suspension without pay
- Verbal warning
How has Oklahoma City dealt with police misconduct over the past 10 years?
According to a report from The Oklahoman, over the past 10 years the Oklahoma City Police Department has either fired, demoted, suspended or allowed the resignations of at least 63 police officers. They were accused of a wide range of infractions, including soliciting prostitutes, drinking and drug use on the job and excessive force.
Here are some of the key findings of the paper’s investigation:
- Several officers were rehired by the Oklahoma City Police Department after they had been fired for misconduct. Some of those infractions include driving under the influence, lying and criminal acts. They were rehired after their cases were arbitrated.
- At least a few Oklahoma City police officers have been suspended more than once.
- The department did not release the names of 25 officers who left the department during an internal investigation, which means that the public cannot see if the officers are continuing their law enforcement careers in other jurisdictions.
In Oklahoma City, the officers’ contract with their police union gives them the chance to challenge their punishment or termination through an arbitration process in which an arbitrator hears both sides then makes a decision. That decision is the final one, and it can’t be challenged in court by the Oklahoma City Police Department.
The arbitration process has been called a “national problem” that persists in other police departments as well. It sometimes forces departments to take back officers who were fired for integrity issues, according to Brian Buchner, president of National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.
Police discipline is a complicated issue, particularly because officers have more power than other professions to use excessive and sometimes lethal force. That’s why it’s so important that you have an experienced civil rights and criminal defense attorney on your side for every encounter you have with police.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of police misconduct, contact Jacqui Ford’s office today.