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Law enforcement looking to crack down on 'nomad cops' traveling to avoid checkered past

Posted at 11:01 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 00:45:22-04

Law enforcement is beginning to address a long-standing but little-known problem in their ranks. ​

The term is "nomad cops" and it describes an officer who moves from department to department to distance themselves from past disciplinary problems.​

Few of us only work for one organization for our entire careers. We consider moving to be normal and expected, but some law enforcement officers move too much. So much so, some leaders call them a public safety problem.​

"The council has voted unanimously to not re-hire Chauna Sheffield," announced Somerville Mayor Michael Bradford through a bullhorn to a crowd outside city hall Tuesday night.​

Sheffield wanted her job back in Somerville after facing indictment in Houston over a man's death. ​That man? Melissa Hernandez' cousin.​

"I don't think she should be a police officer because if she was a police officer at that moment, she did not do her job," said Hernandez.​

Critics claim Thompson became a nomad cop, an officer who moves from place to place, one step ahead of their last round of discipline. This movement makes useful background checks nearly impossible.​

"They're a huge problem. They've been a problem for law enforcement for years," explained Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin.​

These officers, he says, many times, diverted from accepted policies and rules, causing trouble. Some of it he describes as extremely disturbing and a public safety risk.​

"They have the potential to cause a lot of havoc for a community," said Chief Devlin.​

The only defense cities have is a thorough vetting process like Hewitt's, which includes multiple interviews in a process designed to get inside a candidate's head.​

"If we as administrators and agency heads don't deal effectively when these red flags show up, then those officers have the potential to get into major civil rights violations, like what we have seen," said Chief Devlin.

Chief Devlin fears the next George Floyd incident, if it happens, could happen at the hands of a cop with a checkered past.​

"The days of letting this slide on, those days are gone. They've been gone. We can't police a community if we allow certain behaviors to continue tom happen," he said.

Which is why Somerville leaders took action to block Sheffield from returning to the police department.​

"That's why we're here. We don't think anyone will ever be safe as long as she has a badge," said Hernandez.​

Chief Devlin says law-enforcement organizations have begun to lobby Texas lawmakers to strengthen laws governing these rotating officers to keep them from becoming a public problem down the road.