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Law enforcement officers’ oversight bill heads to governor’s desk

The Mississippi Senate passed legislation Monday to give the state’s officer certification board the power to investigate law enforcement misconduct.

House Bill 691, the revised version of which passed the House Saturday, is now headed to the desk of Gov. Tate Reeves.

The bill comes in the wake of an investigation by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting at Mississippi Today and The New York Times into sheriffs and deputies across the state over allegations of sexual abuse, torture and corruption. The reporting also revealed how a “Goon Squad” of officers operated for two decades in Rankin County.

Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell said if the governor signs the bill, he anticipates the Mississippi Board on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Training would hire a few investigators to investigate matters and make recommendations. 

The bill would enable the board to establish a hearing panel on any law enforcement officer “for whom the board believes there is a basis for reprimand, suspension, cancellation of, or recalling the certification of a law enforcement officer. The hearing panel shall provide its written findings and recommendations to the board.”

In addition, deputies, sheriffs and state law enforcement would join police officers in the requirement to have 20 hours of training each year. Those who fail to get such training could lose their certifications.

Other changes would take place as well. Each year, the licensing board would have to report on its activities to the Legislature and the governor. 

The bill calls for a 13-member board with the governor having six appointments – two police chiefs, two sheriffs, a district attorney and the head of the law enforcement training academy.

Other members include the attorney general, the public safety commissioner, the head of the Highway Patrol, and the presidents of the police chiefs association, the constable association, the Mississippi Campus Law Enforcement Association and the sheriff’s association (or designee).

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