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New rule requires review of officers joining other agencies

December 27, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A new policy to prevent Rhode Island police departments from hiring officers who left other law enforcement agencies over misconduct issues has been instituted by the state’s commission overseeing police standards and training.

The policy inactivates an officer’s certification the moment they leave a police department and requires that they apply to be recertified by the five-member Commission on Police Officers Standards and Training in order to take a job at a Rhode Island department, The Providence Journal reported Monday.

“At the end of the day, we are trying to prevent police officers from moving from place to place without a check,” commission chair and Jamestown police chief Edward A. Mello said.

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The rules require the officer to produce a letter of good standing from the previous agency, undergo psychological, drug and medical exams, submit to a background check, and verify they aren’t in the National Decertification Index, a registry of certificate or license revocation actions related to officer misconduct.

The index, which police in Rhode Island use to vet out-of-state applicants, currently lists about 31,000 disciplinary actions.

Rhode Island’s new rule replaces a policy that allowed officers to retain certification for three years after leaving an agency, Mello said.

“We want to be sure there’s a review process between that break,” he said. “This is a stop gap measure to ensure good police.”

The new policy comes at a time when departments are having trouble recruiting, and an increasing number of officers are making lateral moves between departments, he said.

Sid Wordell, executive director of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, says the new policy “is a step in the right direction.”