The National Decertification Index is, surprisingly, not widely used.
The index contains the names of all police officers who have been decertified in their jurisdiction for offenses such as insubordination or misconduct.
Unfortunately, not every state records the names of these officers, and often the officers on the list can easily be rehired onto the police force as long as it is not in the same jurisdiction.
Following the death of unarmed teen Mike Brown at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson, the federal government wants to require the Ferguson, Missouri, police department to check the index before they make new hires.
This way, in theory, they won’t be hiring a police officer onto the force who was previously stripped of their certification for, say, unnecessary use of lethal force.
This news confuses the Editorial Board. Not because it doesn’t make sense to run a check on a new law enforcement hire, but because it absolutely does make sense.
Our confusion stems from the fact that this practice was not required before and at every police department in the country.
The problem with the National Decertification Index is it is not exactly national at all. NBC News reported only 39 states have police jurisdictions that collect and record the information of officers who have been decertified.
It seems one of the only things standing in the way of national mandated use of the index is the difficulty securing outside funding to support it.
But it would be very easy to argue public safety and adequate law enforcement are worth the splurge.
Another argument against the utilization of the index when hiring new officers is the index may become a kind of blacklist for cops.
There is a similar index for doctors who have committed malpractice, and there have not been instances of blacklisting in the medical community.
Both of these drawbacks cannot outweigh the importance of public safety and the vitality of transparency in the police force, especially in today’s political climate.
People in a community have a right to be protected by safe, capable law enforcement officers. And if they are not, they should at least have the right to know the police department is monitoring decertifications.
By not enforcing the use of this index, we are promoting a lackadaisical hiring process for people who are entrusted with our safety.
The judicial system has a lot of problems to be fixed, but mandating a check on new police hires could at least prevent more problems in the future.