By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
As a police officer in a small Oregon town in 2004, Sean Sullivan was caught kissing a 10-year-old girl on the mouth.
Mr. Sullivan’s sentence barred him from taking another job as a police officer.
But three months later, in August 2005, Mr. Sullivan was hired, after a cursory check, not just as a police officer on another force but as the police chief. As the head of the department in Cedar Vale, Kan., according to court records and law enforcement officials, he was again investigated for a suspected sexual relationship with a girl and eventually convicted on charges that included burglary and criminal conspiracy.
“It was very irritating because he should never have been a police officer,” said Larry Markle, the prosecutor for Montgomery and Chautauqua counties in Kansas.
Mr. Sullivan, 44, is now in prison in Washington State on other charges, including identity theft and possession of methamphetamine. It is unclear how far-reaching such problems may be, but some experts say thousands of law enforcement officers may have drifted from police department to police department even after having been fired, forced to resign or convicted of a crime.
Yet there is no comprehensive, national system for weeding out problem officers. If there were, such hires would not happen, criminologists and law enforcement officials say.
Officers, sometimes hired with only the most perfunctory of background examinations — as Kansas officials said was the case with Mr. Sullivan — and frequently without even having their fingerprints checked, often end up in new trouble, according to a review of court documents, personnel records and interviews with former colleagues and other law enforcement officials.
As fatal police shootings of unarmed African-American men and sometimes violent protests have roiled the nation, the question of how best to remove the worst police officers has been at the core of reform attempts.
But a lack of coordination among law enforcement agencies, opposition from police executives and unions, and an absence of federal guidance have meant that in many cases police departments do not know the background of prospective officers if they fail to disclose a troubled work history.
Among the officers, sometimes called “gypsy cops,” who have found jobs even after exhibiting signs that they might be ill suited for police work is Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014.
Before he was hired in Cleveland, Officer Loehmann had resigned from a suburban police force not long after a supervisor recommended that he be fired for, among other things, an inability to follow instructions. But Cleveland officials never checked his personnel file.
Officer Loehmann, who was not indicted, remains on the Cleveland force. He is on desk duty pending the result of an administrative review, Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia, a police spokeswoman, said.
While serving as a St. Louis officer, Eddie Boyd III pistol-whipped a 12-year-old girl in the face in 2006, and in 2007 struck a child in the face with his gun or handcuffs before falsifying a police report, according toMissouri Department of Public Safety records.
Though Officer Boyd subsequently resigned, he was soon hired by the police department in nearby St. Ann, Mo., before he found a job with the troubled force in Ferguson, Mo., where Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American, was fatally shot by a white officer in 2014.
Officer Boyd is being sued by a woman in Ferguson who said he arrested her after she asked for his name at the scene of a traffic accident. He declined an interview request.
The Ferguson police declined to comment about him, but said in a statement that their applicants “undergo extensive investigation before final hiring decisions are made, which includes, but is not limited to, a psychological examination, investigation of an applicant’s prior work history, consultation with applicant’s previous employers and a criminal background check.”
Across the state, the Kansas City police fired Kevin Schnell in 2008 for failing to get medical aid for a pregnant woman after arresting her during a traffic stop. The baby was delivered, but died a few hours later.
Officer Schnell has since been hired by two other Missouri police departments, including his current employer in Independence. Officer Schnell and the Independence police declined to comment.
Criminologists and police officials said smaller departments and those that lack sufficient funding or are understaffed are most likely to hire applicants with problematic pasts if they have completed state-mandated training, which allows departments to avoid the cost of sending them to the police academy. Such officers can start work almost immediately, usually at a modest salary.
But police officials say most departments perform reasonably well in discovering when officers have histories of misconduct.
In addition to checking applicants’ work and criminal histories, and having a psychologist interview them, departments like those in Seattleand Austin, Tex., check credit histories. The Houston and Phoenixpolice departments are among those that administer polygraph tests.
Roger Goldman, an emeritus law professor at St. Louis University and an authority on police licensing laws, said that using the National Practitioner Data Bank for physicians as a model, the government must establish a database of officers who have criminal convictions, have been fired or forced to resign, have had their law enforcement licenses revoked, or have been named in a judgment or settlement involving misconduct.
“After Ferguson and the other stuff that’s happened, if we can’t get this done now, when are we going to get it done?” he said.
Last year, in a report by President Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing, law enforcement officials and others recommended that the Justice Department establish a database in partnership with theInternational Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, which manages a database of officers who have been stripped of their police powers. There are some 21,000 names on the list, but Mike Becar, the group’s executive director, said his organization lacked the resources to do a thorough job.
“It’s all we can do to keep the database up,” he said.
The Justice Department, which gave the association about $200,000 to start the database in 2009, no longer funds it. The department declined to explain why it had dropped its support, but a spokesman said the goal was “ensuring that our nation’s law enforcement agencies have the necessary resources to identify the best qualified candidates to protect and serve communities.”
Law enforcement groups advocating reforms say an effective database would go a long way toward ensuring that unfit officers are not given multiple chances.
“Every chief wants as much information as possible about potential hires before making a hiring decision, and hiring one wrong person can undo a lot of an agency’s prior good work,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a policy group.
He said that while his group was investigating hiring practices in St. Louis County, Mo., after Mr. Brown’s death, it found that officers facing severe discipline and possible termination in many agencies were routinely allowed to resign to avoid a record of having been fired.
“They could then join another area department,” Mr. Wexler said.
Mr. Sullivan, who became the police chief in Cedar Vale, Kan., after being convicted on a harassment charge for kissing a 10-year-old girl, had been the second-highest-ranking officer in Coquille, Ore., before he was forced to resign in November 2004.
While prosecutors suggested that he had been “grooming” the girl for a sexual relationship, he avoided a jail sentence.
But in August 2005, not long after an Oregon judge barred Mr. Sullivan from working as a police officer, the Cedar Vale Police Department hired him. Mr. Sullivan had not told anyone about his past, local officials said. City officials involved in his hiring no longer work for Cedar Vale.
Prosecutors in Kansas investigated a relationship between Mr. Sullivan and a 13- or 14-year-old girl, but the girl refused to cooperate and the investigation was dropped, Mr. Markle, the Kansas prosecutor, said. Mr. Sullivan did not respond to a letter seeking comment.
Eventually, officials checked the police decertification database and found Mr. Sullivan’s Oregon conviction and the order barring him from police work.
Wayne Cline, Cedar Vale’s current police chief, never met Mr. Sullivan, but said he is still talked about around town.
“Everybody was surprised and would say, ‘He was such a nice guy,’ and I would think, ‘Yeah, he’s a con man. They’re like that.’”
....and you won't have to have community meetings that solve nothing
Fairfax Co. police, community leaders host town hall meeting
By Dick Uliano
CENTREVILLE, Va. — Fairfax County police, community leaders and county residents gathered Saturday afternoon for a town hall-style meeting aimed at building trust between police and the community. The county is striving for improvements following high profile incidents involving police use of force.
Since the 2013 fatal police shooting of John Geer in the doorway of his Springfield home, Fairfax County police have stepped up training, reexamined use of force polices and increased efforts toward police accountability.
“The changes that we have made in use of force, mental health (police contact with people with mental illness) and all different areas of the police department are through participation with the community,” said Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr.
The public forum, held at Centreville Baptist Church, provided an opportunity for police and citizens to discuss law enforcement efforts and the responsibilities of both police and the public.
“In the past year we’ve not had a complaint against the police department, so I think that’s extremely good,” said Shirley Ginwright, president of the Fairfax County chapter of the NAACP. Ginwright also leads the county’s Communities of Trust Committee, which sponsored the town hall-style meeting.
Everybody involved in the meeting seemed to agree that there are solid benefits when communication improves between police and citizens, particularly those in culturally diverse communities. The town hall-style meeting was regarded as the latest effort by police to reach out and to listen to members of the public.
“One of the things that I think Fairfax County does especially well is to, every once and a while, step back and look at ourselves,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.
Milton Harding, a pastor and a 30-year resident of Centreville, said one meeting won’t be enough.
“We can’t just have one town hall and think that everything is going to be resolved tomorrow,” said Harding. “It will take responsibility on both sides of the fence.”
Prosecutor: No Wrongdoing by Fairfax County Officers in Man's Death
Fairfax County's Commonwealth's Attorney says that four police officers committed no wrongdoing when a resident of a group home died after a struggle with them.
Raymond Morrogh said in a statement Thursday that no charges will be filed in the death of 45-year-old Paul Gianelos of Annandale.
Police say on April 20, Gianelos wandered away from other group home residents during an outing at a Falls Church park.
They say Gianelos became combative after an officer found him, and four officers restrained him, handcuffing him behind his back. Police say Gianelos suffered what appeared to be cardiac arrest and died at a hospital.
An autopsy found that Gianelos died from cardiac arrhythmia associated with police restraint.
Police Chief Col. Edwin Roessler Jr. says the officers will return to full duty.
New Haven police chief resigns after two public outbursts where he berated a waitress and threatened to shut down a football game
• Police chief, Dean Esserman, visited the White House twice in the past year
• He resigned after launching a tirade against waiting staff at a restaurant
• Esserman's outburst was so severe it caused other diners to move tables
• He threatened to cancel a Yale football game during his tenure as chief
By SIMON HOLMES FOR MAILONLINE
A Connecticut police chief who was invited to the White House twice in the past year to discuss law enforcement issues has resigned after being disciplined twice for berating people in public.
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp announced Tuesday that Police Chief Dean Esserman resigned by 'mutual agreement' effective September 2. She also praised him for the city's declining crime and violence.
'I'm grateful for the chief's successful legacy,' Harp said in a statement.
'Public safety in New Haven is improved after a return to grass roots community policing, productive partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, and positive interaction with community organizations.'
Esserman has apologized in the past for public outbursts but it seems the last straw was a July confrontation with a member of staff at Archie Moore’s bar and restaurant in New Haven.
Harp investigated the matter after a witness said the chief's yelling prompted other diners to be asked to move further away from his table.
Esserman is said have been infuriated by poor service at the restaurant.
He faced a packed room at police headquarters Tuesday afternoon, speaking briefly about his time as chief and the dedication of officers in the city.
He said it was 'very important' that he give those in attendance the 'respect they deserve,' and to let them know in person that he was moving on.
'It has been a privilege to serve Mayor Harp and work alongside the remarkable men and women of the New Haven Department of Police Service, who no doubt have earned the title, 'New Haven's Finest,'' Esserman said.
'Last and certainly not least, it has been my privilege to serve the wonderful people of New Haven.'
Esserman agreed in July to go on three weeks of paid leave and then went on temporary sick leave amid the latest allegations from the local restaurant.
This is not the first time the police chief has been caught up in controversy. Two years ago, Harp reprimanded Esserman for his angry confrontation with a Yale Bowl usher.
When he was police chief in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2011, Esserman was suspended without pay for one day for what media reports said was a threat to throw coffee in the face of a sergeant who was coughing during a speech by Esserman.
Officers in both New Haven and Providence voted no confidence in Esserman, accusing him of publicly berating officers, intimidation, favoritism and retaliation, among other things.
Esserman, a Dartmouth College graduate who never served as a rank-and-file officer, is a protege of New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, former chief of the Los Angeles police and former Boston police commissioner.
He previously served as an assistant prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York, assistant police chief in New Haven from 1991 to 1993, police chief for the Metro-North Railroad and police chief in Stamford, Connecticut.
He became New Haven chief in 2011.
Esserman was among 30 law enforcement officials, civil rights activists and other people invited to a White House discussion in July on improving police-community relations. He also attended a White House discussion on reducing incarceration across the country in October.
Assistant Chief Anthony Campbell will continue to serve as Interim police chief in New Haven.
7 Current and Former Bay Area Officers to Be Charged in Sexual Misconduct Case
(OAKLAND, Calif.) — Prosecutors said Friday they will charge seven current and former San Francisco Bay Area officers in a sexual misconduct scandal involving a teenager.
The wide-ranging scandal surfaced when a teenage girl who described herself as a prostitute said she had sex with about 30 law enforcement officials in Oakland and elsewhere in the region.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said she was waiting to formally file charges until the teen could be returned to California from Florida, where she has been jailed in an assault case.
The prosecutor said she needs the teen to provide testimony in the case.
O’Malley said the officers who will be charged are former Contra Costa sheriff’s Deputy Ricardo Perez; former Livermore police Officer Dan Black; Oakland police Officers Brian Bunton, Giovani LoVerde and Warit Utappa; and former Oakland police Officers Tyrell Smith and Leroy Johnson.
The officers will be charged with a range of felonies and misdemeanors, O’Malley said.
The teen, now 19, said she had sex with four officers before she turned 18 and sometimes traded sex for protection from arrest or tips about planned prostitution stings.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify people who say they are victims of sex crimes.
O’Malley said she found much of the conduct “morally reprehensible” but noted the actions of the officers on social media did not violate criminal statutes.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf previously said disciplinary action has begun against a dozen officers, including dismissal proceedings against four.
Seven will serve a range of unpaid suspensions before being allowed to return to duty and another will be required to attend training classes.
The Oakland department previously said two officers implicated in the scandal had resigned and another killed himself last year.
The department cycled through three chiefs in 10 days in June after the allegations were first reported in the media.
Six Richmond police officers and personnel at other law enforcement agencies have also been implicated.
A Livermore officer who had been on administrative leave resigned Thursday after seeing the results of his department’s investigation.