• Law

    Most Cops Involved in High-Profile Killings Since 2014 Kept Their Police Licenses

    Rarely does a new police hire make national headlines. But when Myles Cosgrove got a job at the Carroll County sheriff’s department in northern Kentucky this past April, people had reason to pay attention.

    About three years earlier, he and his squad of Louisville police officers had used a battering ram to break into Breonna Taylor’s home during a deadly raid. Investigators later found that Cosgrove was one of three officers who fired their guns. While the Louisville police department ultimately fired Cosgrove for violating use-of-force procedures and not using his body camera, he eluded criminal charges and remains employable as a cop.

    That’s because he kept his police certification.

    He’s not the only one. Out of 54 officers involved in 14 high-profile killings that spurred Black Lives Matter protests in the last nine years, only 10 had their certifications or licenses revoked as a matter of disciplinary action, according to The Intercept’s analysis of certification documents obtained through public records requests. (Three officers’ disciplinary cases remain pending.) The Intercept’s review begins in 2014 and runs through January of this year. For the first several years of the analysis, none of the officers whose records The Intercept reviewed faced a disciplinary hearing in front of a regulatory board with the power to revoke their license — a bar on being rehired as a cop in most states. That changed after Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in 2020. He and three other Minneapolis officers were stripped of their licenses for their involvement in the killing — a turning point in public outrage over police violence, and, perhaps, in formal efforts at accountability.

    While experts have described the revocation of police licenses as a “viable remedy” for misconduct, it can be difficult to attain. In many states, a conviction is a prerequisite for decertification, a major obstacle given how rarely even the most notorious cops are criminally prosecuted. And the process varies wildly from state to state. In most cases, local police departments must initiate the process, which is often handled by a state board that oversees police standards and training. The state boards are often stacked with law enforcement administrators, in addition to some civilian appointees. Not all states have a process for decertification, and there is no parallel process for federal law enforcement personnel.

    That makes it impossible to conduct a comprehensive national analysis. While limited, The Intercept’s review of licensing records across 11 states demonstrates how underutilized this accountability mechanism is, even though it could go a long way in keeping violent cops off the streets.

    Continue reading on The Intercept.

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