Certification and Decertification
Since May of 2020, at least 30 states and the District of Columbia have enacted 63 bills related to police certification and decertification. The majority of these bills increased transparency, added to certification requirements or expanded grounds and requirements for decertification.
More than a dozen legislatures addressed when a state agency can or must revoke an officer's certification. At least 11 states—California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington—required creation of public means of sharing decertification or disciplinary information.
A handful of states authorized law enforcement agencies to share records without allowing for public access. For example, Virginia and Vermont now require agencies to disclose certain information, including performance issues and disciplinary information, between agencies during the hiring process.
States continue to address certification requirements with 125 enactments in 43 states and the District of Columbia since May 2020. Most recently, Kentucky passed legislation to prohibit certification for candidates who had misdemeanor or other sex offense convictions. Nebraska specified additional requirements for certification of applicants applying for reciprocity including a physical fitness test, proof that the applicant meets statutory requirements, a reciprocity test and proof that the applicant was awarded a certificate or diploma attesting to satisfactory completion of a training program equivalent to statutory standards. Applicants seeking certification via reciprocity are prohibited from exercising law enforcement authority until after all requirements have been met.
Hiring and Retention
Law enforcement, like many other professions across the country, has faced an employment crunch in the last couple of years with recruitment lagging and high retirement rates.
States have sought to support law enforcement agencies, especially smaller and rural agencies. Nebraska enacted the Law Enforcement Attraction and Retention Act with the stated purpose of providing financial incentives to attract law enforcement officers to the state. The new law provides for retention incentive payments ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 for individual officers who complete tiers of service from one year through five years of full-time employment.
The act also provides for a grant program to provide hiring bonuses to newly hired full-time officers. Agencies are eligible to apply for a grant if they employ fewer than 150 officers and are operating under the recommended staffing levels set by the state.
New Mexico enacted similar legislation requiring the Department of Finance and Administration to establish a program to distribute funds for local law enforcement agencies to provide recruitment and retention stipends. Puerto Rico extended the Career Incentive program to all peace officers defined in statute, providing for base pay increases based on post-secondary credits and degrees earned.
States have also looked at ways to increase diversity in the law enforcement workforce, with Louisiana requiring the state standards and training board and local agencies to adopt policies designed to increase recruitment of minority candidates. North Carolina instructed the state’s Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission and the Sheriffs’ Education and Training Standards Commission to jointly develop a best practices guide to help agencies recruit and retain a diverse workforce.
Colorado created the State’s Mission for Assistance in Recruitment and Training (SMART) Policing Grant Program to provide grants to law enforcement agencies to increase diversity and the number of officers who are representative of the communities they serve. Agencies are authorized to use funds to cover costs associated with officer salaries, benefits, recruitment and training.
Officer training remains among the most common issues addressed by enacted legislation. Since May 2020, at least 39 states and the District of Columbia. have enacted 95 laws.
New laws cover a disparate array of training topics. Several states required training programs to be implemented related to new statewide standards related to use of force. Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas each required training on the duty to intervene in excessive force for officers but did not enact a statutory duty to intervene.
Related, at least 11 states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia—enacted legislation related to de-escalation training. Indiana required the state training board to incorporate de-escalation training into various mandatory training programs.
Body Worn Cameras
Prior to 2020, only South Carolina required widespread adoption of body-worn cameras. Since May 2020, at least six additional states—Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and New Mexico—have mandated statewide body camera adoption. The New Jersey and South Carolina laws make implementation of body-camera programs contingent on funding from the legislature. New Jersey appropriated funding in 2020.
Connecticut’s 2020 law authorized bonds of up to $4 million for a new grant program to fund related equipment and service purchases by municipalities. The grants can cover 30% to 50% of equipment costs as well as costs for digital storage for up to one year.
State mandates generally apply to all law enforcement officers who are interacting with the public. But they typically exclude officers working in courtrooms or other secure areas or confidential settings, nor do they apply to administrators or civilian staff.
New York and Vermont adopted mandates for use by state law enforcement agencies, joining California and Nevada who had previous requirements. Kentucky and Maine both addressed the use of cameras during the execution of a no-knock warrant.
“No-knock” search warrants allow officers to enter a building unannounced and without identifying themselves provided they’ve shown that knocking and announcing themselves would result in a dangerous situation or allow for the destruction of evidence.
The death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., in 2020 contributed to new legislative interest. Fourteen states—Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington—passed laws regulating the use of these warrants, required body cameras when carrying out the warrants or prohibited them altogether.