01.06.2020

The Wandering Officer Phanomenon

“Wandering officers” are law-enforcement officers fired by one department, sometimes for serious misconduct, who then find work at another agency. Policing experts hold disparate views about the extent and character of the wandering-officer phenomenon. Some insist that wandering officers are everywhere—possibly increasingly so—and that they’re dangerous. Others, however, maintain that critics cherry-pick rare and egregious anecdotes that distort broader realities. In the absence of systematic data, we simply do not know how common wandering officers are or how much of a threat they pose, nor can we know whether and how to address the issue through policy reform.

This article published in the Yale Law Journal conducts the first systematic investigation of wandering officers and possibly the largest quantitative study of police misconduct of any kind.

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