BOSTON (SHNS) – Bay Staters will soon be able to go online to confirm the certification status for most of the state’s thousands of police officers.
Members of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission approved a motion Tuesday to publish a list “containing the name, employing agency, and certification status of all law enforcement officers who have been granted initial certification since December 15, 2021 or granted full recertification.”
A POST Commission spokesperson said the database will become public “no earlier than next week.” The portal will only list information for officers who are certified, the spokesperson said.
The reform law that created the panel required it to move toward a publicly available, searchable database with law enforcement officer records, so long as the panel took into consideration officer health and safety.
Commissioner Larry Calderone, who is president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, cast the lone dissenting vote.
The vast majority of police whose last names begin with the letters A through H secured recertification under the first round of that process outlined in the law. Of the 8,846 total officers in the pool, 8,322 were again certified and another 269 were conditionally certified, according to data POST Commission Executive Director Enrique Zuniga presented at a Tuesday meeting.
While it still represents less than 3 percent of the total pool of applicants, the count of police officers who were not recertified by the panel swelled substantially from 57 last month to 243 as of Nov. 16, driven in large part by the inclusion of officers out on leave in the tally.
Twenty-six officers were not recertified for what Zuniga called a “pending matter including a disciplinary matter.”
“This includes instances where there is not an attestation by the chief and the Division of Certification is affirming that determination of not a good moral character,” Zuniga said, referring to a requirement in the certification process for a law enforcement agency head to attest to an officer’s character.
Most denials were for reasons unrelated to on-the-job performance. More than half, or 133 officers, did not earn recertification because they are currently out on administrative, medical, military or family leave. They will each get 90 days to comply with recertification requirements once they return to active duty.
“Please note that this is not a pejorative status and that the officer remains in good standing but is ‘pending’ or ‘on hold’ until their return,” POST Senior Certification Specialist Gina Joyce wrote in an Oct. 31 memo included in Tuesday’s meeting materials.
Another 21 officers retired or resigned after submitting their applications, which were due on July 1. Sixty-three applicants failed the Bridge Academy, a handful of whom chose to go on to a full police academy and can eventually earn certification once they finish their training, according to Zuniga.
Some of those officers denied recertification may opt to appeal the decision by seeking review of their case from Zuniga or from the larger POST Commission.
Certification for a dozen officers is tied up amid potential review hearings before either Zuniga or the full commission. The panel entered closed executive session following Tuesday’s open meeting to consider six requests for preliminary inquiries and nine cases of recommended certification suspension.
The law that created the POST Commission set up a rolling three-year cycle for recertification of all Massachusetts police. Officers with last names starting with the letters A through H needed to apply for recertification this year, and others will be due in future years.
In addition to getting a clear look at which police officers are certified, the public can also begin to file complaints against law enforcement via a new web portal POST launched in recent days.
The police misconduct complaint form now available will expedite the process of bringing potential issues before the panel for review.
“This form will enable us to capture structured data in a much more efficient way and generate better reporting,” Zuniga said.
Civilians who fill out the questionnaire can do so anonymously, though the commission encourages them to identify themselves to allow the oversight panel to conduct follow-up inquiries and gather more information.
In its earlier days, the commission had been fielding public concerns via phone calls or emails sent to a general inbox. The panel has received about 1,650 complaints since its inception, and Zuniga said about 350 of those — nearly one-quarter — came from “a very small group that’s about a dozen individuals.”
“We of course anticipate the new form will result in more complaints coming to us, but our approach is to treat all complaints seriously and interact with the public in a professional manner,” Zuniga said. “Some of the repeat complainers, sometimes it eventually becomes clear that some of these complaints are not credible for a variety of reasons. We are documenting and making sure we have consistent protocols for those responses. In many cases, it means contacting the law enforcement agency, and in some cases, it may include referring the individual to additional resources.”