Of 54 officers involved in 14 high-profile killings that spurred Black Lives Matter protests in the last nine years, only 10 had their certifications or licenses revoked as a matter of disciplinary action, according to The Intercept’s analysis of certification documents obtained through public records requests. (Three officers’ disciplinary cases remain pending.) The review begins in 2014 and runs through January of this year. For the first several years of the analysis, none of the officers whose records were reviewed faced a disciplinary hearing in front of a regulatory board with the power to revoke their license — a bar on being rehired as a cop in most states. That changed after Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in 2020. He and three other Minneapolis officers were stripped of their licenses for their involvement in the killing — a turning point in public outrage over police violence, and in formal efforts at accountability.
While experts have described the revocation of police licenses as a “viable remedy” for misconduct, it can be difficult to attain. In many states, a conviction is a prerequisite for decertification, a major obstacle given how rarely even the most notorious cops are criminally prosecuted. The process varies widely from state to state. In most cases, local police departments must initiate the process, which is often handled by a state board that oversees police standards and training. The state boards are often stacked with law enforcement administrators, in addition to some civilian appointees. Not all states have a process for decertification, and there is no parallel process for federal law enforcement personnel.