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Sue Rahr: Police Hiring Boom At Odds With Reform Proposals

In December President Obama appointed former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr to his Task Force on 21st Century Policing.The group is charged with strengthening relationships between law enforcement and the people they serve. 


Last week, Seattle hosted a national symposium on civilian oversight of police departments – and the conference was packed. After high-profile police incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, relationships between police and their communities are in the spotlight.

Sue Rahr heads the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. She’s traveling the country as part of the White House task force.

She says people have been surprised to learn that police chiefs can’t take away a police officer’s certification or license to work. In Washington state she says that’s only allowed in very narrow circumstances.

Rahr: "There are many types of misconduct that will not cause an officer to be de-certified. For example you can have an officer who is fired for excessive use of force. He won’t be decertified."

That means the officer could go on to work for another police agency.

Rahr says there’s currently a hiring boom for police in Washington and nationwide. Smaller towns and cities are especially desperate for viable candidates. So officers with a troubled history can often get work elsewhere.

Rahr says the state Legislature so far hasn’t supported her attempts to change the law. She says she’s hearing those frustrations as part of the White House task force. Obama wants the group’s recommendations by March 2. Rahr says it’s a tight deadline.

Rahr: “I don’t know what the president’s reasons were. If I were in his shoes, I would want to take some action quickly because the community needs to see action, and I think the community’s not going to be very satisfied if the leadership says, ‘Hey we’re going to study this for a couple years and get back to you.’ That is not going to help cool things down.”

Rahr says she doesn’t know what will happen to their recommendations, but she hopes they’ll be “just the beginning” of more change. 

Year started with KUOW: 2005