A review of law enforcement licenses in the state of Texas has found that hundreds of officers were forced to surrender their licenses to avoid or limit prosecution in the past four years — most of which were felonies.
A KXAN investigation found that an overwhelming majority of the cases where officers were forced to surrender their license, their badges were used as a bargaining tool to avoid prosecution for serious crimes.
KXAN reviewed 297 cases where officers were forced to surrender their badges in Texas between 2015 and 2018 and in almost every case, the police officer was able to avoid serious charges by agreeing to give up their careers in law enforcement. More than half of these charges were felonies and many of them involved violent crimes that were committed both on and off-duty.
The in-depth investigation was the result of over 100 public information act requests which were filed at all levels of local and state governments. Most of the officers who surrendered their licenses received very little jail time or none at all. Some of the officers were involved in very serious crimes, including sexual assault of children and women in custody, lying about police shootings, and tampering with evidence. Domestic violence is another common charge that police officers use their positions to avoid.
Kali Cohn, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that this arrangement is evidence that police are above the law.
“What it appears is that police officers are being treated differently than a person who would be charged with the same crime that is not an officer. When we see they are treated better than the average citizen, when we see they are treated differently, when we see that they are given preference, that makes the law enforcement office less legitimate in the public eye and starts chipping away at the credibility of the rule of law in our society,” Cohn told KXAN.
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These accusations have been denied by police officials, who claim that they are actually held to a higher standard than the average person. However, anyone who reads TFTP on a regular basis knows that this is not true. Cops are frequently held to much lower standards and rarely go to jail for even the most heinous of crimes.
This is not a problem that is isolated to Texas either, a 2015 study compared police license surrenders across all US states and found that Texas had the fourth-highest number of license decertifications that year.
The study, conducted by the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, found that Texas was surpassed by Oregon, Florida, and Georgia. Georgia had the most decertifications that year, with 562 officers being forced to turn in their license, many to avoid prosecution from crimes.
Roger Goldman, a professor emeritus at Saint Louis University School of Law, says that prosecutors have an incentive to cut deals with officers because they know that cops are rarely found guilty when they face a jury.
"We can get this fellow to voluntary surrender, which is permanent and forever — he’ll never be back on the force.’ Or, ‘Do we roll the dice, go before a jury?’ And, again, juries don’t like to convict police, he’ll be back on the force,” Goldman explained.