Police reform: New bill aims to prevent fired cops from getting jobs in New York

ALBANY, New York (WABC) -- Lawmakers in Albany are ramping up their police reform efforts with a new bill that would prevent officers with a checkered past from getting hired in New York.

"What this bill basically says is any cop that has been fired, either within state and in any police jurisdiction, or from a police jurisdiction out of state, you cannot be hired in New York state," said New York State Sen. Brian Benjamin.

The new bill is called the Wandering Officers Act and it would also prevent officers who have resigned while under disciplinary review from finding employment in another police department.

Connecticut is working to strengthen its Wandering Officers law and New Jersey's is pending. Pennsylvania recently passed a law.

"The wandering police officer statute alone is not going to solve all the problems," attorney Joel Berger said.

Berger supports amending state law Section 891 to require an independent tribunal to try police disciplinary cases, instead of police departments.

Berger says the NYPD's current system can enable a wandering officer.

Minor Schedule A violations can be expunged from an officer's record after one year.

"If the disciplinary body was truly objective... you would find there are a lot of folks who currently get Schedule A slaps on the wrist would actually be suspended for long periods of time or even fired," Berger said.

The New York City police union supports the idea of an independent arbitrator that is not truly connected to the city.

The union applauds the Wandering Officers law and said in part:

"New York City police officers aren't interested in serving alongside a cop whose conduct got him fired someplace else. In fact, this bill should apply to every public employee in the state. But the bill sponsors should also make it clear that this is not a rampant problem with police officers in New York."

Berger and the union agree -- smaller communities that may not have the resources to do lengthy background checks will benefit the most from the Wandering Officers law.

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