Police accountability bill heads to full Senate

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, explaining Senate Bill 80, a measure he introduced that would strengthen the current police decertification law in Kentucky.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A measure to strengthen the police decertification process in Kentucky advanced out of a Senate committee Thursday.

“You all know over the past year it seems law enforcement in the United States has been under attack like never before in the history of our country,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll, while testifying before the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee. “These attacks have been based on the action of a few officers.”

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Carroll, R-Benton, said he hopes this focus on policing leads to sensible and reasonable police reforms that are the embodiment of Senate Bill 80.

“Ninety-nine percent of all law enforcement officers are honorable and courageous men and women who bravely put their lives on the line daily to protect our citizens,” said Carroll, a retired police officer. “There is no one who will condemn a bad cop quicker or more severely than another cop.”

SB 80 would strengthen Kentucky’s current police decertification law by expanding the number of acts considered professional wrongdoing. The new acts would include unjustified use of excessive or deadly force, interference of the fair administration of justice, and engagement in a sexual relationship with a victim, witness, defendant or informant in a criminal investigation.

Another section of SB 80 would require an officer to intervene when another officer is engaging in the use of unlawful and unjustified excessive or deadly force.

“I think it is important to understand this because these things are at the crux of what we feel is important to this legislation,” Carroll said of the provisions.

A third section would set up a system for an officer’s automatic decertification under certain circumstances. Those would include being convicted of a felony in federal or state courts or the concealment of such conviction during the police officer certification process.

An officer could be brought up for decertification after being convicted of certain misdemeanors. Those would include crimes involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, physical violence, sexual abuse, or crimes against a minor or household member.

A fourth section would prevent an officer from skirting decertification by resigning or retiring before an internal investigation is complete.

“Throughout my career I have seen this happen,” Carroll said, adding it’s a nationwide problem. “A few weeks later you find that officer turns up, if not in another agency in Kentucky, at an agency in another state. That’s what this law was primarily set up to stop.”

Bryanna Carroll of the Kentucky League of Cities, who testified in support of the legislation, said the practice Sen. Carroll described drives up insurance premiums. She added that Kentucky cities employ nearly 5,000 full-time officers, spend $600 million annually on police services and handle three-quarters of the state’s reported violent crimes.

Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police President Art Ealum, who also serves as Owensboro’s top cop, spoke in favor of SB 80.

“Everyone is on board to make this happen,” said Ealum, who also testified on behalf of the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council and Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association. “This has been a long time coming.”

Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, predicted SB 80 would become the “gold standard” for law enforcement across the nation.