Should schools provide second chances to cops with checkered pasts?

Video of a South Carolina school resource officer pulling a student out of her desk in October of 2015 went viral and led to debate over the role of police in U.S. schools.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Actions News investigation of officers hired by school police departments revealed a troubling practice: School police forces employ officers who have been terminated or resigned under the cloud of an investigation at twice the rate of local police departments.

The story explained:

Roughly 12 percent of the 656 officers working in the state’s 31 school police departments have been forced out of a previous job, versus about 6 percent of the officers who work in local police agencies, according to data obtained from the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), the state agency charged with certifying police.

The officers were terminated or investigated for a wide range of reasons, including chronically poor performance, lying to superiors, sexual misconduct and inappropriate use of force, according to POST documents. Disparity in the disciplinary history of officers at school departments in metro Atlanta varies widely across the region and comes as school police agencies are expanding across the state.

The AJC/Channel 2 report found Clayton Schools has one of the highest rates of officers with checkered pasts, about 18 percent of officers have previously been forced out of a police job. The rate was 14 percent in Atlanta Public Schools; 12. 2 percent in DeKalb; 6 percent in Fulton; and 3.1 in Cobb.

Gwinnett operates the state’s largest police school force but has no officers fired by another Georgia law enforcement agency, according to the AJC report. “We just don’t want to take the chance of putting an officer in an environment like a school where there are going to be all kinds of problems if you put a bad officer in there,” said Gwinnett Schools police chief Wayne Rikard.

School police officers must win the trust of not only employees and parents but students. And they must be able maintain their cool surrounded by smirking adolescents, not always an easy task. They can’t be hotheads or easily goaded.

The AJC/WSB investigation recounts a Dougherty County School System Police officer who tackled a 15-year-old student from behind and punched him several times after the student called him “play-play cop” and threatened him. The school system fired him after the incident, which left the student with two bone fractures.

J. Tom Morgan, a former DeKalb County district attorney, is the author of “Ignorance Is No Defense: A Teenager’s Guide to Georgia Law.” He and I talked about school resource officers a few years ago after two local high school seniors were arrested and taken to jail in handcuffs on the last day of school for throwing water balloons.

One of the reasons for police overreactions to teenagers, suggested Morgan, is that younger officers, in particular, can fall into escalating power plays with teens. Older officers with teens of their own may be better able to recognize when a situation calls for a sit-down rather than a throw-down.

School police force chiefs who have hired applicants with disconcerting backgrounds defended their decisions, telling the AJC and WSB that the officers deserve a second chance and that mistakes should not haunt them forever.

I agree in theory, but we are talking about hallways full of kids, some of them flippant and disrespectful. When past transgressions by an officer reflect a lack of self-control and unwarranted use of force, parents should rightfully question whether schools are the place to provide those second chances.

Anyone disagree?

Reader Comments 0

23 comments
Rat Bastardson
Rat Bastardson

This all sounds like a shockingly bad idea.  Especially since cops have the means and training to use severe or deadly force.  Anyone who lacks self control should find another line of work.


The priority is to protect the community, not make sure these people have their job of choice.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

I agree..a building full of kids isn't  a good place for those second chances.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Maybe you should worry about the hiring of teachers in DeKalb county - it just keeps getting better and better.  Two teachers fighting at school.  Not only can they not control student discipline problems, they can't even control TEACHER discipline problems!

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@class80olddog or the hiring of teachers in other counties , like Cobb and Gwinett, that have sexual relations with the students

Astropig
Astropig

Hiring someone with past misconduct in an official capacity is a liability suicide pact.Only the very stupid would allow someone with a tainted history to be put in a position where they could lose their self control and expose the school system to a huge civil judgement.


If I am sitting on a jury that might award big damages,and the school system knowingly allowed someone with a record of violence or sexual misconduct...cha...ching! 

class80olddog
class80olddog

Maybe they also should not hire TEACHERS who have been fired from other schools (or allowed to resign in lieu of termination).  But, alas, that is not the case - schools just "pass the trash".

Astropig
Astropig

@class80olddog


There was a pretty good series in USA Today last year about teachers that passed from system to system after sexual and physical abuse of students.They essentially gamed the system's rules to keep their licenses and stay in the profession.There were a lot of "see no evil' rationalizations in that story arc from school administrators that chose not to know things that needed to be exposed.

Rat Bastardson
Rat Bastardson

@Astropig @class80olddog Lazy administrators don't have the guts or energy to take on the teacher's union, who, for some reason, don't seem to reach a limit with their member's behavior, ever.

class80olddog
class80olddog

In other news:  DeKalb says that exorbitant water bills are the result of a math error in the programming - maybe the programmers graduated from a DeKalb County school (or APS).  From overseas - The bomber in Manchester has been reported to be a British-born of Libyan descent.  Some people (who were not taught critical thinking in school) might think this made him a British citizen.  No so, since Britain does not have "birthright citizenship" like the United States does - they ended that practice in 1983.  So I imagine that would make the bomber Libyan.



Starik
Starik

If it takes legislation to fix this lets do it. The BLM people should devote their energies to demanding higher standards for police, and more toughness from POST. No policeman who has problems with use of force or dishonesty should retain their certification.

Renee Lord
Renee Lord

This practice seems potentially more dangerous for students than having no officers at school. Parents would not stand for this if they were informed.

bu22
bu22

Its a tough question.  Never a 2nd chance?  In a related matter, what about people with criminal records?  Would you give them a 2nd chance?  Or would you condemn them to a life on welfare?  That is a pretty big number.  Or you give all of them a 2nd chance, but not in a school?   

class80olddog
class80olddog

@bu22  A person who has committed a crime is usually not selected for work that involves trust.  Businesses should be given the information about a person's past and allowed to make their own decisions.  For some jobs it may not be an issue (garbageman?).  Initiatives such as "ban the box" would not allow businesses to know if a person had been convicted of a crime.  What if a business hired a person who had been convicted of rape, but they could not find that out, and then the rapist struck again on their property? 

Rat Bastardson
Rat Bastardson

@bu22 No one is saying they can't have a job.  They just can't be cops if they have temper problems.


Seriously, have you ever been the victim of a cop having a really bad day that doesn't control himself very well?  It isn't pleasant.

kaelyn
kaelyn

No second chances for unwarranted acts of violence or sexual misconduct. Gwinnett has it right on this issue. The last thing we need in schools is rogue cops.

Alt AJC
Alt AJC

No doubt school police officers, like teachers, tend to be only as good as the reputation of the school. The superior ones in each category have already transferred to better situations. What remains are only those less qualified.

Decrease the number of students from single-parent families and you're likely to retain better staff.

aon
aon

Police are authority figures and should be respected.  The complete and total lack of respect is a big part of the problem.

Devan Watson
Devan Watson

So they can brutalize children? Absolutely not.