SB 124: Increasing Law Enforcement Accountability
When an officer has done something worthy of termination, it’s often easier for his employer to let him go quietly, rather than deal with the lawsuits that can accompany official termination. This is bad news for the next law enforcement agency who hires him without knowledge of past problems.
Senate Bill 124, sponsored by Senator Luz Escamilla, goes a long way towards remedying this problem. The bill requires any law enforcement agency to confirm whether a prospective hire has previously worked in law enforcement. If so, the prospective new agency must look into the officer’s background including his discipline record, the details of his termination, any pending investigations, and if the agency would rehire the applicant and, if not, why. The agency where the officer was employed is legally required to provide the information.
The bill also requires all law enforcement agencies to implement an early intervention system (EIS). An EIS tracks data, which can help management identify performance problems and then work to correct them before they escalate. For example, an EIS may flag an officer for being involved in a high number of incidents that result in injury. Management could then conduct additional training. The system both protects the public and can improve officer performance before it escalates to crisis level. Many law enforcement agencies throughout the country already utilize an EIS. This bill ensures that this best practice is adopted across Utah and provides grants to help agencies implement it.
Finally, the bill allows POST — the agency that certifies police officers in Utah — to discipline a chief or sheriff who is made aware of officer misconduct but fails to conduct an investigation and report the findings to POST if they are substantiated.
Collectively, these improvements represent substantial improvements for policing in Utah.