The Quality of Police Officers is Critical to AZ Justice
In Arizona the quality of the police force is critical to protecting the public and providing professional service. Prior to making a hire local police agencies are required to conduct thorough reviews of the candidate’s past, including; contacting all previous employers, reviewing past police personnel records, performing lie detector tests, and conducting full criminal background checks. Arizona state officials audit local agencies to make sure that all steps are followed and that state requirements are met prior to hiring of officers. This helps ensure the quality of police officers in Arizona. However, not all states have similar procedures and protections.
An online article in The Denver Post discusses some challenges that the police force of the small town of Rocky Ford, Colorado has experienced, including the fatal shooting of a man. Unfortunately, small towns often do not have the budgets of larger cities and the salaries that can be offered are often dramatically lower. Couple that with the fact that Colorado does not have strong regulations regarding who can be hired as a police officer and it isn’t hard to guess at possible outcomes. The result is a relatively high rate of what can be called ‘second chance’ officers. These are officers that move from department to department and may have pretty serious issues on their records, including items such as being fired from a previous department or having been subject to disciplinary action. In all, four of Rocky Ford’s ten officers can be classified in this category. Background checks in Colorado are up to local officials. Smaller towns with smaller budgets may not conduct as thorough of a background check. This lack of consistency and completeness opens the door for second chance officers to find their way in. Colorado is not alone as there are a number of states that lack robust police officer hiring procedures.
Lax state standards and procedures in the hiring process and background checks for potential officers is clearly a risk for the public. Luckily Arizona has much tighter controls around police hiring to help insure the safety and hopefully the consistency of the police force.