Mimesis Law
30 June 2022

The Dangerous Shell Game Of “Gypsy Cops”

September 15, 2016 (Fault Lines) — The term gypsy in “gypsy cops” is not meant as a pejorative indicating a compulsion for stealing, but rather as an indicator of how some cops simply hop to another police department after having been shunned by the previous one. The fact that these cops, some with serious criminal convictions on their rap sheets, are allowed to sport a badge and carry a gun again somewhere (literally) down the road, is a cause for concern.

The subject of a piece from The New York Times, former Cedar Dale Police Chief Sean Sullivan, is quite the gem:

As a police officer in a small Oregon town in 2004, Sean Sullivan was caught kissing a 10-year-old girl on the mouth.

Mr. Sullivan’s sentence barred him from taking another job as a police officer.

But three months later, in August 2005, Mr. Sullivan was hired, after a cursory check, not just as a police officer on another force but as the police chief. As the head of the department in Cedar Vale, Kan., according to court records and law enforcement officials, he was again investigated for a suspected sexual relationship with a girl and eventually convicted on charges that included burglary and criminal conspiracy.

Mr. Sullivan, 44, is now in prison in Washington State on other charges, including identity theft and possession of methamphetamine.

It’s important to highlight the distinction between Sullivan and other officers who committed misconduct on the field, but were never charged with a crime. There are officers who engaged in troublesome behavior that is nonetheless justified by the reasonably scared cop rule, who then took the gypsy road to the next available department. Some were rejects of a police department before they shot someone under very questionable circumstances under the auspices of a subsequent employer. Others had disciplinary files thicker than several phone books, but still kept their jobs until they overindulged and received a jail sentence.

Sullivan, however, was convicted of a crime before he applied for and landed the Police Chief gig in the small town of Cedar Dale, Kansas. There was a mug shot, a criminal sentence, and a rap sheet. It’s hard to say what consisted of that “cursory check” that was supposedly done before Sullivan was fitted with a badge in Kansas. So what’s in place to keep track of these officers before they’re taken in by the next department?

For one thing, there’s the insufferably named “International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training,” or IADLE, which keeps a “National Decertification Index,” or NDI, online. Government alphabet soup, anyone? Aside from the website’s terminally goofy and amateurish appearance, it’s noted in the Index’s main page that it currently contains “21,193 actions reported by 40 states.” As to how the NDI applied to Sullivan’s case, this stuff cannot be made up. The IADLE brags how it only took three months for both Oregon and Kansas to realize that this animal was still working as a cop, because of the NDI! From the IADLE’s website:

Three months after his conviction in Oregon, Sullivan applied to be a police officer in Klawock, Alaska.  On his application he indicated that he had never been convicted of a crime nor had his police certification been revoked in any state.  Later that month he applied to be a police officer in Cedar Vale, Kansas.  On his application he again marked that he never been convicted of any crimes. Sullivan was hired and served as Police Chief in Cedar Vale until May 12, 2006 when Kansas POST became aware of his revoked status and began an investigation.  Kansas also looked into allegations that Sullivan may have engaged in other unlawful conduct while serving as a police officer.  The NDI was used as a vehicle by both states to identify the Oregon revocation and take appropriate action.

 (No emphasis added.)

To fill in the gaps left by the NDI, it’s been suggested that the vaunted feds establish a database in conjunction with the NDI.  But at this point that’s not going to happen, as per the feds’ impeccable government speak on this matter.  From the New York Times:

The Justice Department, which gave the association about $200,000 to start the database in 2009, no longer funds it. The department declined to explain why it had dropped its support, but a spokesman said the goal was “ensuring that our nation’s law enforcement agencies have the necessary resources to identify the best qualified candidates to protect and serve communities.”

In an ideal borderline functioning world, local police departments would have access to the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, which the federal government calls “the lifeline of law enforcement.” Any criminal defense lawyer who has defended a client with (gasp!) priors in a burg outside his own has been handed an NCIC rap sheet by the local prosecutor that contains prior arrests and convictions from different jurisdictions, which will be gleefully brought up by the state during the bond hearing.

Aside from convicted cops like Sullivan, there are those who were not charged but still raised some serious red flags but were allowed to keep working as police officers. When that happens, the potential for further harm is high when twisted, nefarious characters are allowed to keep walking the beat:

While serving as a St. Louis officer, Eddie Boyd III pistol-whipped a 12-year-old girl in the face in 2006, and in 2007 struck a child in the face with his gun or handcuffs before falsifying a police report, according to Missouri Department of Public Safety records.

Though Officer Boyd subsequently resigned, he was soon hired by the police department in nearby St. Ann, Mo., before he found a job with the troubled force in Ferguson, Mo., where Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American, was fatally shot by a white officer in 2014.

Across the state, the Kansas City police fired Kevin Schnell in 2008 for failing to get medical aid for a pregnant woman after arresting her during a traffic stop. The baby was delivered, but died a few hours later.

Officer Schnell has since been hired by two other Missouri police departments, including his current employer in Independence. Officer Schnell and the Independence police declined to comment.

This is one band of gypsies – no, not that one – that law enforcement should be on the lookout for when taking in new blood. Very few officers are ever charged with a crime, and the bar is already set very high to convict a police officer for excessive force. So when someone like Sullivan already has a conviction, a police department ought to seriously contemplate whether he should be allowed to don its uniform.  When the conviction involves assaulting a young child, the straight answer should be no.

Hell, just the possibility of a junkyard dog competent defense attorney getting a hold of that tainted officer’s prior convictions or personnel file should be enough to treat that officer like a perennial pariah. It could jeopardize every case that that officer gets his paws on, and no one wants to see the deplorables go free, right?

6 Comments on this post.

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  • jdgalt
    15 September 2016 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Don’t police officers have to have a license? Why don’t courts just revoke that license?

    • Terrence Koeman
      16 September 2016 at 6:17 am - Reply

      They did, but he just told them it wasn’t. Apparently they didn’t check.

  • Links #324 | The Honest Courtesan
    18 September 2016 at 6:02 am - Reply

    […] Gypsy whores are a fantasy; gypsy cops are a reality. […]

  • phm
    19 September 2016 at 3:06 am - Reply

    Someone should make it their hobby to tattle on all such gypsy cops whenever possible. The power of the crowd and cloud.

  • John Oliver of HBO's "Last Week Tonight" Discusses "Police Accountability" | Cop Block
    8 November 2016 at 12:06 am - Reply

    […] Additionally, much like the well documented tactics of the Catholic Church, even when that slap on the wrist extends to a police officer actually being fired, they are simply able to move to another department, many times even within the same city, and continue abusing and preying upon citizens. In fact, it’s such a common act that there’s a name for it: “Gypsy Cops.” […]

  • Coming to a PD Near You: Violent “Gypsy Cops”
    2 March 2017 at 9:17 am - Reply

    […] that’s more dangerous, that looks worse for America’s law enforcement, than when it plays the dangerous shell game of “gypsy cops,” in which officers who’ve committed serious offenses against the citizenry are allowed to simply […]