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New law gives state board power to probe officer misconduct

The state’s officer certification and training board now has the power to investigate law enforcement misconduct.

Gov. Tate Reeves signed the bill making it official.

Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell, who pushed for the legislation, said that House Bill 691 authorizes the Board of Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Training “to launch its own investigations into officer misconduct. This change, along with the funding to hire two investigators, will improve the board’s ability to ensure officer professionalism and standards.”

The new law 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.

Tindell said the new law will “improve law-enforcement training in Mississippi by requiring all law enforcement officers to receive continuing training throughout an officer’s career.”

Under that law, deputies, sheriffs and state law enforcement officers will join police officers in the requirement to have up to 24 hours of continuing education training. Those who fail to train could lose their certifications.

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

Tindell thanked Reeves “for signing this important piece of legislation and the legislative leaders who supported its passage, including the author of HB 691, Representative Fred Shanks.”

Shanks, R-Brandon, praised the “team effort with some very smart people who want a top-notch law enforcement community.”

The new law creates a 13-member board with the governor having six appointments – two police chiefs, two sheriffs, a district attorney and the director of the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers’ Training Academy.

Other members would include the attorney general or a designee, the director of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, the public safety commissioner and the presidents of the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police, the Mississippi Constable Association, the Mississippi Campus Law Enforcement Association and the Mississippi Sheriffs’ Association (or their designees).

“We obviously need checks and balances on how law enforcement officers conduct themselves,” said state Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson. “This is a good first step.”

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