IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – An Iowa agency recently granted more power to remove problem officers has regularly taken years to prosecute those who commit serious crimes and has rarely sanctioned officers for poor maintenance ‘order alone, according to an Associated Press review.
The Council of the Iowa Academy of Law Enforcement has sought to decertify 17 officers in the past two and a half years after determining that they had committed crimes or misconduct that warrant their final withdrawal from the profession .
The PA’s examination revealed that most of these officers had been convicted of crimes, domestic violence or other crimes which should automatically prohibit them from working in the police force under the law of Iowa.
A single officer since 2018 has been dismissed for only improper police work: a Cedar Rapids patroller who arrested a man without probable cause and filed false reports.
None of the cases reviewed by AP involved allegations of excessive force or racism against more than 7,000 full-time officers and certified state reservists.
In response to protests against police brutality and racial injustice, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law this month that expands the types of behavior requiring the decertification of officers.
The law requires for the first time that counsel expel officers who engage in “gross misconduct”, including the repeated use of excessive force and the production of evidence.
The board will develop rules defining what type of misconduct can result in suspension and dismissal under the new law, said academy director Judy Bradshaw. It is also studying the number of employees whose business, which is made up of a 13-member council, which includes sheriffs, police chiefs and citizens.
The new law also requires departments to report details of misconduct to council within 10 days of an officer’s dismissal or resignation – seeking to fill a gap that has contributed to delays in decertification or cases missed.
Representative Ras Smith, a Waterloo Democrat who helped draft the new law, said some leaders have defended problematic officers who use inappropriate force or have allowed them to quietly resign. He said the law sends a message that the public wants a tougher stance against officers who abuse their power.
“We will have to create a more robust and transparent process” for removing the officers, he said. “And we’re going to have to find out why it takes so long.”
Previously, the law required the council to dismiss officers for crimes and other specific crimes and gave it some leeway to act against those who had been dismissed or resigned for misconduct.
The board review process is concealed in confidentiality. Council does not disclose if an officer is under investigation for potential decertification. It examines cases at closed meetings before voting to dismiss many without requesting the dismissal of an unidentified officer or giving a public explanation.
Even in cases where removal is mandatory, the council regularly takes a year or more to file petitions requesting removal after an officer has been convicted. A hearing before an administrative law judge and a vote of the council can add a year before the action is final.
Some take much longer. Two recent cases involved allegations of misconduct from 2011 and 2012 that were not reported to the state or were investigated only this year.
Dennis Beadle was sentenced to prison in 2016 for his sexual abuse while working as a reserve officer, but he did not officially lose his ability to work in the profession until April 2019.
A former Tama police chief who pleaded guilty in 2017 to selling vehicles and firearms in the possession of the department for personal use was not decertified until March 2020.
Bradshaw said she gives top priority to cases involving accused officers who still have law enforcement jobs. Two of these cases are pending.
An officer facing decertification was fired last year for sex with a 17-year-old girl, which is legal in Iowa but violated departmental policies. He was quickly rehired by another department.
Bradshaw said the process can evolve slowly for several reasons. The council awaits the end of the criminal proceedings and must collect the judicial files and the documents relating to the interior affairs, she declared.
Bradshaw said it has implemented a new case tracking system.
“I hope you are not going to see the mismatch between the council’s action and the charge of misconduct so far,” she said.
Source: AP News