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A Kansas bill hopes to weed out bad cops by sharing job applications

A Kansas Highway patrolman walks toward their car.
Blaise Mesa
/
Kansas News Service
The bill has already passed the Senate and is starting to move through the House.

Police departments in the state already can alert each other to officers who've been disciplined at past jobs.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas police departments could soon have another tool to keep unqualified candidates away from law enforcement.

A proposed bill would require agencies to share information used on a job application and, more importantly, share information on why a candidate was rejected.

A candidate could be rejected from one law enforcement agency and continue to apply to other agencies without those agencies knowing why they were rejected. Law enforcement agencies can share application materials with other departments that show why they rejected a candidate, but they currently don’t have to.

Ed Klumpp, a former Topeka Police chief, said it is helpful when they do.

“Oftentimes we find … there’s a different story being told by the applicant on different applications,” he told the Senate Judiciary committee in February.

Existing state law doesn’t guarantee agencies can view background checks or polygraph information from other departments.

Kansas already has laws in place to share some information, so agencies can see if officers were disciplined, lost their certification or were being investigated when they quit a previous law enforcement job.

Klumpp said about a third of the officers searching for a new police department are driven by reasons that would discourage other agencies from hiring them. State law was amended in 2018 to address that concern.

The bill allowing the sharing of job applications was unanimously approved in the Senate and appeared to have the same support when heard in a Kansas House committee on Tuesday. Neither the Senate nor House Judiciary committees spent more than 15 minutes hearing the bill and had few questions or concerns about it.

Supporters of the bill say it will help agencies save resources by not having to do another background check when problems were already found elsewhere. They say it also ensures nothing is missed during the hiring process. It could especially benefit smaller agencies that have fewer resources to screen candidates.

Doug Schroeder is executive director of the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training. That agency can decertify officers and has a central registry of all police officers in Kansas. It is a go-to place for agencies to see if officers have been disciplined before.

Schroeder said in written testimony that his agency is merely one place to go and other departments’ insights are a valuable tool when hiring.

Officers could also run into trouble between jobs. That would show up in application materials but would not be flagged in a personnel file.

“Those applicants and officers are often persistent in their efforts in seeking new employment and submit a multitude of applications to law enforcement agencies simultaneously,” Schroeder said, “resulting in duplicative work being conducted by hiring agencies with strained budgets and minimal staff.”

Blaise Mesa reports on criminal justice and social services for the Kansas News Service in Topeka. You can follow him on Twitter @Blaise_Mesa or email him at blaise@kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. 

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As a criminal justice and social service reporter, it's my job to ensure the systems designed to help people are working as intended. Thousands of Kansans deal with the criminal justice or foster care systems each day. I strive to hold all agencies and departments accountable for the work they are doing. Reach me at blaise@kcur.org.