HD39 - Study of Specially Appointed Police Officers

Executive Summary:
House Joint Resolution 471 (1995, Delegate Guest) asked the Commission to investigate the training and liability concerns associated with specially appointed policemen appointed by circuit court judges. (See Appendix A.) This Crime Commission-sponsored study was requested because there was concern that such policemen are easily appointed without the requirement for any formal police training and without consistent criteria governing their qualifications statewide. At the study's initiation, the Law Enforcement Subcommittee included specially-appointed conservators of the peace within the scope of the study because the mode of appointment is similar and the duties and powers are almost identical.

Fundamentally, both classes of specially-appointed officers serve as conservators of the peace and, as such, have full powers of police officers. In some cases, those powers even exceed the powers ordinarily granted to fully-trained policemen. For example, the right to carry a concealed weapon is granted by law to conservators of the peace without regard to training. That right, among others, coupled with the police powers granted and lack of a training requirement creates the potential for a misuse of power. The Commission sought to make the appointment process consistent for both classes of specially-appointed officers and to establish minimum, consistent qualifications and to grant judicial power to limit the powers of such officers who are not sufficiently trained.

The Commission surveyed each Circuit Court judge in the state and received helpful comments from many on the appointment process, reviewed information on file at the Supreme Court for appointments made and recorded, researched the Code of Virginia for the specific statutory authority governing such appointments and interviewed selected Circuit Court Clerks for information on the utilization of such appointments.

Upon careful consideration of the information generated and input from the law-enforcement community as well as the Department of Criminal Justice Services regarding the relative powers and duties of all classes of law-enforcement officers, the appointment qualifications of both classes were amended to simplify the process and to make background search, training requirements and bond requirements consistent. Broader judicial discretion was granted to limit the carrying of weapons. Broad statutory grants of police power were limited so as not to exceed those granted to full-time, fully-trained officers. Specific criteria were set forth for justification of appointments. It was made clear that civil liability for misconduct by the appointees would rest with the entity requesting such an appointment. And it was clarified that the requesting authority for special policeman should be law-enforcement agencies while the requesting authority for special conservators of the police should be private entities. Proposed legislation was drafted to accomplish the changes recommended by the Commission.