The State of Michigan is cracking down on "gypsy cops" or abusive, criminal police officers who resign, get fired, or retire from one department, only to later be hired at a different law enforcement agency.
Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to pass the bill which passed the Senate in March, and the House on Tuesday in a landslide vote of 105-2.
Republican Sen. Rick Jones introduced the bill after he claimed an Eaton County deputy—accused of an unlawful traffic stop where a citizen was abused—resigned and was immediately hired in Lenawee County, only to later be sued for allegedly assaulting two more citizens.
"It's just a commonsense way we hope to combat the gypsy cop."
The new state law, if signed by Snyder, will allow law enforcement agencies to share details with one another, surrounding an officer's employment, separation and/or termination.
According to the South Bend Tribune,"The legislation would require law enforcement agencies to keep records about the circumstances surrounding any officer's employment separation. The officer would have to sign a waiver allowing a prospective employer to ask for the records, and the department could not hire the officer unless it receives the documents."
If the police accountability bill becomes law, it could seriously impact the current practice of many LEAs, which have allowed abusive officers to be able to migrate from one police department to another without any real accountability for his/her actions.
James reportedly told the South Bend Tribune that LEAs would provide as little information as possible about an officer's work record out of fear of being sued. With the bill becoming law, police departments cannot be sued for releasing that information, and gypsy cops cannot be hired unless they provide all of the details relating to their work history as a law enforcement officer.
"Under the measure, agencies would be required to let a separating officer review the separation record and to submit a written statement explaining the officer's disagreement. The former employer would have to give a copy of the records to a prospective employer upon receiving a waiver."
The law would also grant immunity to LEAs for disclosing an officer's internal records to potential employers in good faith. Michigan's law is believed to be some of the first pieces of such legislation in a nation struggling to come to grips with the phenomena of the "gypsy cops."
National Killed by Police statistics reveal that around 1,200 people are killed every year by police officers. That number is likely much higher when taking other factors into account, such as accidents involving vehicles, jailhouse deaths, and deaths that do not get reported to the news.
One such police officer who may be looking to become a "gypsy cop," is Patrolman Jeffery Wijnen-riems of Beaver Borough in Beaver County, Pennslyvania. Wijnen-riems reportedly resigned on Tuesday, after he was named as a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit.
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As TFTP reported, Wijnen-riems sicced his K9 on a motorist who was complying with all of the officer's commands at the time the dog was let loose. Later, the officer bragged to dispatch about the physical damage done to James Edward Cicco.
After Cicco pulled his car over for the officer, Wijnen-riems opened up Cicco’s car door and then began to attempt to extricate the man from his small SUV. The officer can be seen placing Cicco in a painful wrist-lock, which had the potential to break the man’s wrists. The patrolman then began cranking his arm behind his back, another move intended to break either the man’s arm or dislocate his shoulder.
Instead of placing the man in handcuffs, Wijnen-riems went back to his vehicle and released his attack dog, a German-Shepherd. As Cicco sees the dog approaching, he jumped back into his car and shut the door, as anyone afraid of police attack dogs may do.
Once again, Officer Wijnen-riems opened the car door, this time aided by his dog, who began to viciously attack Cicco, biting him under the arm, in the armpit, and on the back, creating gaping wounds.
The small-town police officer, who some are now calling a bully, then charged Cicco with fleeing the scene, and eluding arrest, and driving without a license. Cicco fought the charges and his case was brought to trial. The jury could not agree on a verdict, ending the court case in a mistrial.
The district attorney reportedly said he would not retry Cicco, and now the man is suing for having his civil rights violated in an apparent excessive use of force.
Cicco was severely injured during the mauling with bites producing gaping holes in his flesh. According to the Beaver Countian:
James Cicco was transported to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he was admitted with multiple injuries. Photos later taken of James Cicco and provided to the Beaver Countian show large wounds in several places on his body, including a gaping hole exposing his chest cavity. Photos said to be of the shirt he wore that day appear to show pieces of flesh still stuck to it.
“This entire incident resulted over an aggressive police officer who was upset because on the way to non-emergency call Mr. Cicco didn’t get out of way fast enough,” Cicco's lawyer Geraldo Benyo said. The attorney said his client’s fears of police brutality, “turned out to be pretty accurate with having the fear.”
Now, it seems, Wijnen-riems may be looking for another job as a police officer, effectively characterizing him as the type of "gypsy cop" Michigan is attempting to prevent from being rehired with their new legislation.
The Beaver K9 was retired in September following the scandal. It is unclear whether or not Wijnen-riems has already found employment with another LEA but if so, we hope he has learned his lesson. We applaud Michigan for enacting laws which will hopefully prevent "gypsy cops" from continuing their patterns of abuse throughout their careers and we sincerely hope other states follow Michigan's example.