Texas Struggles to Identify Troubled ‘Gypsy Cops’


The Austin American-Statesman cites Jonestown, Texas, as a dramatic example of the state's troubled efforts to control the phenomenon known among police as gypsy cops. Despite a number of efforts by regulators to restrict the practice, Texas police officers with histories of misconduct often move easily from department to department. At the heart of the failure is the F-5 form, which must be filled out by chiefs every time an officer leaves a department and placed on file at the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Required in Texas since 2005, the confidential form requires chiefs to label departing officers' performance as “honorable,” “general” or “dishonorable.” Yet changes over the years have created incentives and opportunities for the document to be manipulated so as to obscure an officer's true performance. As a result, the form is essentially worthless. It is difficult to remove bad police from the profession generally. Teachers, doctors and other professionals can all lose their state licenses for unprofessional behavior. Texas laws covering police officers, by comparison, contain no blanket provision for suspending or revoking an officer's license for misconduct — making it virtually impossible to take away an officer's license for anything short of a felony conviction.

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