Kansas agency increases number of revoked officer licenses

KS-CPOST director Gary Steed at his office. Photo by Fernando Salazar.

Wichita, Kan. — An independent state agency has more than quadrupled the number of law enforcement officer's licenses it has revoked each year since 2011.

The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training, often referred to as the Kansas CPOST, has increased the number of actions it takes from about eight a year to about 35 a year, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Most officers employed by an agency in Kansas — more than 99.5 percent 7/8— don't face any action from CPOST in a given year.

"To me it's a happy story, a story of professionalism," said Gary Steed, CPOST director. "We are contributing to the professionalism of law enforcement by maintaining a standard."

Last year, the agency took action against one in about every 200 officers employed in the state. In one case, an officer issued a traffic ticket but then took it back after the offender contacted his wife about an affair the officer was having. In another, a sheriff was convicted of distributing methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school. Other problems that could lead to revoked law enforcement license include showing up to work drunk or a conviction for arson.

Steed said the increase in disciplinary actions since 2011 can be attributed to more funding and more clarity in the law about what constitutes bad behavior. From 1999 to 2006, the state had one person assigned to the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center who was in charge of investigating officers.

In 2006, the Kansas Legislature created CPOST and funded the agency with a $2.50 fee on cases in municipal courts, giving CPOST a director, investigators and legal counsel with its own funding in a separate Wichita office. The fee has since been increased to $5.

And in 2012, the Legislature also identified 58 misdemeanor charges that can lead to an officer losing his or her license. Before 2012, an officer could in theory have lost his or her license for not maintaining "good moral character," but in practice the term was too ambiguous to take action unless the officer had been convicted of a felony.

Eric Williams, the outgoing legal counsel for CPOST, said legal ambiguity meant few cases would likely have led to action.

Just under two-thirds of the 428 Kansas agencies that report to CPOST have not had any officers disciplined since 1998. Most of those departments are in small cities and counties. But some small departments have had officers lose their licenses. And some large departments, such as Olathe and Riley County, which employ more than 100 officers, have only had one officer face action since 1998.

Even if an officer doesn't have a state license revoked, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said, CPOST shares whether an the officer was fired while an investigation was underway. A report from CPOST showing a previous firing is "a red flag," Easter said.

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Copyright The Gayly - 12/31/2016 @ 12:53 p.m. CDT.