Monitoring Law Enforcement: Police Decertification in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - There are thousands of members of Arkansas law enforcement that uphold the oath they take as men and women in blue... But there are some who break the laws they're supposed to enforce.
We took a closer look into what goes in to police decertification in Arkansas -- from filing false police reports to taking advantage of administrative access to even more serious crimes like child pornography and sexual assault.
"If I'm going to hold citizens accountable, I'm going to hold our guys accountable," John Staley, the Lonoke County Sheriff, said.
Every year, dozens of members of Arkansas law enforcement are breaking the laws they swore to enforce and losing their certification to police in the state.
"We like to see good quality officers," Percy Wilburn, Commissioner of the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training, said.
Known as one of the top states to decertify officers and deputies, Arkansas' Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training is charged with policing the police. 
"Law enforcement has been taking a banging, a beating, nowadays for police misconduct," Commissioner Wilburn said.
Commissioner Wilburn says in order to keep top caliber cops, the Comission considers if the officer's credibility still stands.
"The key factor that I look at now is mistrust, dishonesty," Commissioner Wilburn said.
In 2016, the Commission decertified 35 deputies or officers,  28 in 2015, and 36 in 2014, banning them from ever wearing a badge in Arkansas again.
But not all law enforcement up for consideration are decertified. In 2016, the Commission voted not to decertify former Saline County Detective Matthew Green, but rather classify him as a "red flag."
"There were some racial issues alleged within the department," Commissioner Wilburn said.
According to this internal affairs report, Green resigned from the department in 2015 after he was accused of using racist remarks against black and Mexican Americans while on duty. And while the Saline County Sheriff's Office did not consider him capable of being objective in cases involving minorities, the Comission voted to let Green keep his certification.
"I think some of his language that was used in the squad room or in the cafe was definitely inappropriate, but we didn't feel that it rose to the level to decertify him," Commissioner Wilburn said.
While the Commission weeds out those it no longer considers qualified for Arkansas law enforcement, departments like Little Rock Police are left with an even smaller pool of potential candidates.
"There's a fine line between being convicted of a crime and no longer being acceptable to be a police officer any more," John Gilchrest, with the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police, said.
Gilchrest says all central Arkansas police departments pull from the same pool and carefully comb through candidates' backgrounds, especially former officers with red flags.
"They're going to have to find out about what was said and they're going to have to hold their standard as to whether or not they want to employ somebody that has made this social violation," Gilchrest said.
As even more accountability is added to Arkansas law enforcement, both local State Departments are watching to hold them to it.
The Commission on Law Enforcement standards and training meets quarterly and has at least a dozen officers and deputies up for decertification consideration each time. 

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