Policing the police in Georgia is a busy job this time of year.
Nearly 500 law enforcement officers across the state are receiving emergency suspension letters this week from the agency that certifies law enforcement officers.
When they hit mailboxes, the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) council expects to hear from scores of panicked officers concerned about losing their ability to work.
“Our phones will probably start ringing off the hook,” said Ryan Powell, director of operations for P.O.S.T.
Georgia has one of the lowest annual training requirements (20 hours) for police in the country. But each year hundreds of officers fail to meet even these minimal requirements, which include classes on use of force and weapons qualification.
Without this training, officers legally are not allowed to work. Each January, P.O.S.T. audits training records to flag officers who failed to complete the required training in 2017.
In 2015, the state agency started auditing training records for all 59,000 officers in Georgia. The first year they mailed letters to more than 1,000 working officers. Last year, 531 letters went out to actively employed officers.
This year’s total of 467 is the lowest number of suspensions since the audits started. Powell said most officers respond quickly to the notices and will move to get required training so they can get back to work this month.
He said officers with a suspended certification have lost their arrest powers. If they make an arrest or use force without a certification in good standing that is a problem.
“It’s on them,” he said. “We’ve made every effort to assist them and make them aware of this situation.”