Georgia stands apart from Louisiana — and many other states — for its robust system to decertify problematic law enforcement officers.
Georgia has around 55,000 officers, more than double Louisiana’s tally. But Georgia revokes police licenses at almost 50 times the rate of Louisiana — about 800 a year, on average.
There are a few key reasons why.
More than 200 law enforcement officers in Louisiana were fired or convicted over serious offenses in the last decade. The vast majority flew below the radar of state oversight officials.
Staffing: Georgia’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, which operates independently from the Georgia Department of Public Safety, has 39 full-time employees.
To handle the many duties of police licensing agencies — like processing certification and training paperwork, records management and coordinating workshops with police academies — the staff is split into divisions.
Specialized employees handle a separate workload from the agency’s investigative director and a team of 12 investigators, who are positioned in field offices around the state. The group works full time compiling reports on officers who are referred to the agency. Each investigator can be working 150 cases or more at a time.
Louisiana’s total number of full-time POST employees? Four. All have additional duties at the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, which oversees POST.
The newspaper identified officers in 39 parishes who were convicted of serious crimes but have not had their licenses revoked.
The laws: Local police agencies in Georgia are required to report demotions, suspensions of 30 days or more, firings and resignations of officers who are under investigation.
When officers are arrested on any charge, the officers themselves are required to disclose the information to POST within 15 days; they can be penalized by the POST Council for failing to do so. As a backstop, arresting agencies are also required to report when they arrest a law enforcement officer.
In Louisiana, POST requires employing agencies to disclose when an officer faces criminal charges — unless the officer is already out the door, as is often the case. And the requirement applies only to criminal cases that stem from on-duty behavior.
Investigations: Georgia’s POST investigators do their own fact-finding, which allows the agency to draw its own conclusions no matter how an officer’s case was handled locally.
Investigators can open cases against any officer who was fired, given a lengthy suspension or accused of a crime. Investigative reports are reviewed by a committee that meets quarterly, whose recommendations are forwarded to the full voting council. Almost always, the committee’s recommendations are considered in batches and ratified by the council.
Authority: Georgia statutes lay out a broad range of offenses under which an officer can be disciplined by POST or decertified. That widens the net for investigators and allows the state to consider an officer’s character on a case-by-case basis.
The result is that the committee scrutinizes offenses involving “moral turpitude,” “unprofessional, unethical, deceptive or deleterious” conduct, along with officers who violated or “attempted to violate” any administrative rule, “even if not criminally punishable.”
In almost every case, Louisiana waits for a felony conviction before it decertifies an officer.
In Georgia, most officers who are decertified have not faced criminal charges, said Chris Harvey, Georgia POST’s deputy executive director.
“The council would still look at the actions and say — even absent a conviction — 'Is this something that we would allow to happen? Do we want this person to still be a cop?'” Harvey said.
Records: Records compiled by Georgia POST investigators on police, including investigative files obtained from local departments, are required to be maintained and available to the public for 30 years.
In Louisiana, POST has no disciplinary records for officers. The office maintains records on training, employment histories and reasons for separation.
Suspensions and probation: In addition to decertification, Georgia's POST can place officers on probation for years at a time, or immediately suspend officers indicted or arrested for a felony. Georgia takes this action about 20 times a month.
Louisiana’s POST Council chair has been able to hand down emergency suspensions through a law passed in 2021. But the state has yet to take that step.