The case of a Dallas police officer who was repeatedly investigated for sexual molestation may test whether numerous complaints in the career of an officer can merit the loss of his job when the findings of misconduct in an individual case might not typically lead to firing, says the Dallas Morning News.
Experts see Anthony Williams’ 20-year career as a prime example of a problem police departments have faced for years: How does a city get rid of an officer whose record is riddled with serious misconduct allegations if you can’t prove he’s guilty or if he keeps getting his job back?
Experts cite lack of evidence, questionable witnesses, and sloppy investigations as key hurdles to keeping problematic officers off the streets. An appeals system that has overturned many firings exacerbated the difficulties. Chief David Kunkle has seen 12 of his 62 firings reversed since he took command nearly five years ago. Keeping an officer on the job after he’s been repeatedly investigated has its own risks. “You are opening yourself up to huge lawsuits and one of the charges will be negligent retention, which means that you knew you shouldn’t keep this person as a police officer but you did it anyway,” said Penny Harrington, an expert on police employee misconduct and former chief of the Portland Police Department in Oregon.