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‘Wandering Cop’ Bill Introduced In Legislature

State legislators want to make it harder for bad police officers to get a job in another police department in New York state.

Assemblyman Phil Ramos, D-Brentwood, and Sen. Brian Benjamin, D-New York City, have introduced A.7284/S.6489, titled the “Wandering Officers Act.”

The legislation would prohibit provisional or permanent hiring of a police officer if the person has been fired from any jurisdiction — either inside or outside New York state — if the officer left while being investigated, if the officer left while the subject of a disciplinary action that could have resulted in the officer being fired or if the officer resigned while criminal charges were pending stemming from actions committed while on duty as a police officer.

“This bill would help to protect New Yorkers from police departments appointing police officers who have demonstrated that they are unfit for that office elsewhere,” Ramos and Benjamin wrote in their legislative justification.

Police officers are not automatically disqualified from serving in New York state if they were fired from a previous police department position. Ramos and Benjamin cite an April 2020 Yale Law Journal story titled “The Wandering Officer” that found that about 3% of officers in Florida were rehired despite being fired from previous police department jobs for bad behavior.

“Law enforcement officers should be held to the highest level of accountability, but as the public record and media reports show, a number of police officers fail to live up to that standard,” Ramos and Benjamin wrote in their legislative justification. “However, as things now stand, a person could be fired as a police officer elsewhere and could still be end up as a police officer in New York.”

In 2020, Pennsylvania enacted a law that requires police departments to keep detailed records of why an officer was fired or left their job. Those records will be part of a confidential database used by other police jurisdictions when they’re evaluating potential new hires. Police departments that choose to hire an officer despite prior discipline just write a publicly available report explaining the decision.

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