Thursday, January 7, 2016

Illinois Legislature Calls for Creation of Database of Discharged Police Officers

Many an employer has hired a candidate who seemed great during the interview process, but shortly after hire reveals behaviors or attitudes that quickly explain why he or she left their old job. Those that hired the employee scratch their heads and say “if only we knew before what we know now.” Former employers often whitewash the circumstances of an employee’s departure in fear of litigation.

With increasing sensitivity towards police practices, it is especially important to understand whether a candidate’s past employment raises a red flag for prospective employers. As part of Omnibus Police Reform Bill SB 1304 provides that the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board will create and maintain an officer professional conduct database. All law enforcement agencies must notify the Board when an officer is discharged or dismissed; or an officer resigns while under investigation for a Class 2 or greater felony. The database will be available to any chief administrative officer of a law enforcement agency that will show each reported instance, including the name of the officer, the nature of the violation and reason for the final decision of discharge or dismissal, and any statement provided by the officer.

While this will certainly be a  useful tool for prospective employers, we caution employers to avoid making decisions based solely on information obtained from this source. It remains to be seen who will challenge this legislation and whether, like criminal background information, it will have an inadvertent discriminatory impact. It is always  good practice to at least offer the candidate an opportunity to respond to the information before the prospective employer determines how much weight should be given to it.