At the end of 2020, the Governor signed a sweeping police reform bill, which, among other measures, created a new civilian oversight board to certify police officers and investigate misconduct. The Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST) established by the Act includes a Division of Police Certification, charged with creating uniform policies and standards for the certification of all law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth. No law enforcement agency may employ a law enforcement officer unless the person is certified by the Commission. Earlier this month, the POST Commission adopted regulations governing the recertification of law enforcement officers.
The law automatically certifies all appointed law enforcement officers who had completed the Municipal Police Training Committee certified academy or the State Police Academy as of July 1, 2021. This initial certification expires on a rolling basis depending upon the first letter of the officer’s last name across a three-year timeframe. Law enforcement officers with last names starting with A-H, expire July 1, 2022; I-P, expire July 1, 2023; and Q-Z, expire July 1, 2024.
In order to be recertified, a law enforcement officer must:
Attain the age of 21;
Successfully complete a high school education;
Successfully complete a basic training program;
Successfully complete a physical and psychological fitness evaluation;
Successfully complete a state and national background check;
Successfully complete a physical and psychological fitness examination;
Possess current first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification;
Successfully complete an oral interview administered by the Commission; and
Be deemed by the Commission to possess good character and fitness for employment.
The POST Commission will consider on-duty and off-duty conduct in making the “good character and fitness for employment” determination. Each officer’s employing agency must provide a submission to the Commission stating whether “an officer adheres to state and federal law, acts consistently with recognized standards of ethics and conduct adopted by the employing agency or as set forth in the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct most recently adopted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and is worthy of the public trust and of the authority given to law enforcement officers.” If the employing agency determines that an officer does not possess good character and fitness, then it must make a written report to the Commission to explain that determination, and the officer may submit a written response. The Division then must render its character and fitness determination after considering the submission from the employer, any response from the officer and any additional information that may prove helpful in determining whether an officer possesses good character and fitness for employment.
The Division reviews each officer’s application for recertification and provides written notification of a decision to the officer, the employing agency, and the head of the relevant collective bargaining unit. Any decision by the Division that results in an outcome other than full recertification will provide an opportunity for review by the Executive Director of the POST Commission, including an opportunity for a hearing.