Certification Information

Welcome

With new changes to police standards in effect as of July 2022, this website contains key information for agencies, officers, and the public about how the Commission’s certification programs work. Please feel free to contact us at certmail@cjtc.wa.gov if you have suggestions for additional information or resources to add. 

Hiring Process


Equivalency Process

  • WAC 139-05-210 – Process for Equivalency (Letter from Executive Director) 
    • Prior to attendance into a Basic Law Enforcement, Corrections Officers, or Reserve Equivalency academy, agencies must submit the following documentation to certmail@cjtc.wa.gov for review and approval for peace, corrections, and reserve officers:
      • Syllabus of the academy completed.
      •  A copy of the certificate of completion from the academy attended.
      • Employment history
    • For certified officers only and at the time of registration: A letter from the hiring agency stating that during the background investigation, the applicant’s certification was found to be in good standing.  This letter should be on agency letterhead and signed by the head of the department or their designee.  

 

Notification to the Commission, Complaints, Investigations, and Authority

 

Statement of Charges, Hearings, Revocation, Suspension, Probation, and Re-training

  • Under RCW 43.101.155, if the Commission determines upon investigation that there is cause to believe that a peace officer or corrections officer certification should be denied, revoked, or suspended, the Commission will prepare and serve upon the officer a statement of charges. The Respondent (officer) has the opportunity to request a hearing and defend against the Petitioner’s (WSCJTC’s) action and may present witnesses or exhibits in support of their defense at the hearing. The Respondent is not required to put on a defense and may simply require the Petitioner to prove its case. A five member hearings panel will hear the case and make the Commission’s final administrative decision.  

 

Databases

  • RCW 43.101.400 requires that WSCJTC create and maintain a publicly searchable, machine readable, and exportable, and accompanied by a complete, plain-language data dictionary describing the names of officers and employing agencies, all conduct investigated, certifications denied, notices and accompanying information provided by law enforcement or correctional agencies, including the reasons for separation from the agency, decertification or suspension actions pursued, and final disposition and the reasons therefor for at least 30 years after final disposition of each incident. The dates for each material step of the process must be included. Any decertification must be reported to the national decertification index (NDI).
    • The WSCJTC database is located here.
    • For additional documents that are not available on the database link, a public records request can be submitted on this website. 
    • The link to the NDI is found here.

Resources

Commission Authority and Certification Rules

FAQ

Question Answer

How do certification matters come to the attention of the Commission?

  • By a complaint, which can be filed by anyone here; or
  • By notification from the officer’s employing agency. 

What conduct can result in denial or revocation?

A list of bases for mandatory and discretionary action on certifications can be found at RCW 43.101.105.

Where does the Commission’s authority over certifications come from?

State Law governs the Commission and can be found in RCW 43.101. In 2021, the state legislature adopted several police accountability laws that the Commission must implement and abide by, including new standards for certification. The RCWs are further elaborated within the relevant Washington Administrative Code (WAC).

Do the new certification rules apply to all currently employed peace and corrections officers?

Yes, E2SSB 5051 established new certification mandates for all Peace, Corrections, and Tribal Officers. Refer to RCW’s 43.101.095 and 43.101.105

Agency Obligations and Reporting Requirements

FAQ

Question Answer

What must agencies report to the Commission for certification review?

Within 15 days, agencies must report the following events:

  • When a certified officer or reserve officer is separated from the agency for any reason;
  • When the agency first learns of a use of force by a certified officer, including canine bites, that caused serious injury or death;
  • When the agency first learns that a certified officer has been charged with a crime; and
  • When the agency makes an initial disciplinary decision for alleged misconduct by a certified officer that is noncriminal and may constitute misconduct within RCW 43.101.105.

Additional agency reporting requirements are found in WAC 139-06-020.

Prior to certification, how do the agency and officer authorize the release of employee files?

The officer certification application will be completed at the time of graduation by the agency. The form will be used to certify that the background requirements were completed.  The form will also be used to authorize the release of personnel files including disciplinary, termination, civil or criminal investigations, or other records or information directly related to certification or decertification.  

Which forms must an agency submit?

  • The CJ-1903 Notice of Hire form is required prior to attendance to the academy.
  • The CJ-1902 Notice of Separation form is required when separation has occurred for any reason.  This form is due with 15 days of separation.  It is mandatory to include the separated officer's email address. 
  • The CJ 1915 Reporting EUFO, Suspension, Criminal Charges or Discipline. This form is required within 15 days of any of these occurrences.
  • The CJ1916 Canine Reporting form. Required within 15 days of any serious injury from Canine bite.

How do I report background verification to the commission prior to a conditional offer of employment?

The notice of hire form has been revised to include the following statement: "Per WAC 139-07-020, this agency completed its own background investigation, prior to a conditional offer of employment, to include the submission of fingerprints for this applicant on (insert date)."  This form will be submitted to the Commission prior to acceptance into an academy.  This will be the same process for law enforcement agencies as well as corrections facilities.  The form can be found in the documents section of this page. 

Backgrounding

FAQ

Question Answer

What are the current background requirements?

To comply with RCW 43.101.095, and per WAC 139-07-020, agencies must conduct thorough backgrounding prior to signing and submitting the notice of hire form. Recent changes include:

  • Additional requirements for the psychological exam, see WAC 139-07-030.
  • A review of applicants’ social media accounts, see WAC 139-07-020.
  • Review of past or present affiliations with extremist groups. See definitions in WAC 139-01-310

Complaints and Investigations

FAQ

Question Answer

Can any person make a complaint to the Commission regarding officer misconduct? How are complaints handled?

Per RCW 44.101.145 any individual may submit a complaint to the Commission regarding an officer's certification. The Commission has a webform available here for individuals to complete and submit. 

Commission staff will receive the complaint, track the information, contact the employing agency to discuss complaint, and ensure an investigation is completed if the alleged misconduct meets the requirements of the law.

Commission staff may also conduct investigations regardless of the status of an agency-based investigation.  

 

On what basis does the Commission staff decide to put a matter forth for possible revocation or suspension of certification?

First, the offense must qualify for revocation based on RCW 43.101.105.

Then, the evidence must meet the “preponderance of the evidence” standard; is it more likely than not that the officer committed the alleged offense?

If the staff believe that the evidence meets the preponderance of the evidence standard, then they advance the matter with recommended charges to the Attorneys General Office, which represents the Commission as the Petitioner in certification matters before hearings panels. 

What happens if the Attorneys General Office moves the charges forward?

Under RCW 43.101.155, if the Commission determines that there is probable cause to believe that an officer’s certification should be denied, revoked, or suspended, the Commission will prepare and serve the officer a Statement of Charges.

Once the officer (Respondent) is served with the Statement of Charges and Request for Hearing, the Respondent has 60 days to request a hearing and defend against the Commissioner’s action. If the officer does not request a hearing, the Commission will enter an Order of Default and the officer’s certification will be revoked.

If the officer requests a hearing, they may present witnesses or exhibits in support of their defense at the hearing. The officer is not required to put on a defense and may simply require the Petitioner to prove its case.

The standard of proof in actions before the Commission is a preponderance of the evidence.

Can the Commission request information and proceed with the decertification process if there is a pending appeal or union agreement?

Yes. E2SSB 5051 mandated that requests for information from the Commission to an agency cannot be delayed, limited, or precluded by any agreement or contract between the officer, the officer's union, and/or the entity responsible for the records or information. 

If an officer resigned or retired in lieu of termination, does an investigation need to be conducted and completed?

Yes.  Even if the misconduct was not discovered at the time of separation and would have more than likely resulted in suspension or discharge, the agency shall conduct and complete the investigation and provide all relevant information to the Commission as if the officer were still employed.

How long does it take for the Commission to review and respond to complaints?

Our goal is to review and address complaints within 30 days of receipt. However, the timeline could be significantly longer depending on a number of factors, including ability to obtain records, the complexity of a matter, backlog for review of matters, and prioritization decisions. Within a few days of receiving a complaint:

  • The complainant will receive confirmation of receipt and the name of a Commission point person.
  • The employing agency will be notified of the complaint received.

Who manages complaint reviews at the Commission and conducts investigations?

The Commission has a Certification Division that as of 2022 includes a Certification Division Manager, Supervisor of Investigations, and three investigators, as well as other staff. Of the four staff directly involved with investigations, two are former law enforcement, and two have other types of investigatory expertise.

Each matter concerning a certification receives several levels of review prior to reaching a hearing. 

Certification Decisions/ Hearing Panels

FAQ

Question Answer

Are hearings open to the public?

Yes. Under RCW 43.101.380 hearings are open to the public, but the deliberations are not.  The transcripts, admitted evidence, and written decisions of the hearings panel on behalf of the Commission are not confidential or exempt from public disclosure, and are subject to subpoena and discovery proceedings in civil actions. Some of this material is available on the Commission’s website.

How soon will a decision be made once the hearing concludes?

In most cases, the panel will notify the parties in writing of its decision within 90 days as required by state law.

Why was a particular officer decertified or not decertified?

Every circumstance is different. You can learn a lot about the reasons for decertification decisions by reviewing the information on individual cases on our website here. There is also data on decertification trends available on that site.

In some cases, the Commission may not be able to pursue a certification review if the matter was some years ago and the law didn’t require maintaining records on it.

Once a hearing has been requested, when will it take place?

The hearing will take place within 90 days of receiving the request for hearing.  Once the hearing is set, the Commission shall transmit electronic and written notice of the hearing to the officer and provide public notice on the Commission's website.

Who is the final decision-maker on whether an officer keeps their certification?

A five member hearings panel will hear the case and make the Commission’s final administrative decision based on a majority of the vote within 90 days of conclusion of the hearing. Potential outcomes include revocation of certification, suspension of certification, retraining, or dismissal of the Statement of charges.

The makeup of hearings panels can be found under RCW 43.101.380

Does the officer need to be present for the hearing?

Yes, whether held in person or remotely, the officer must attend the hearing. Failure to do so will result in a default order for revocation. 

How long are complaints, investigations, and certification information kept on file?

Starting 2022, files relating to complaints to the Commission will be maintained indefinitely.

As of July 25, 2021, files relating to complaints, hearings, and investigations held or provided to the Commission are retained indefinitely.

Prior to July 25, 2021, the Commission destroyed files one-year after the conclusion of a case, pursuant to the law at the time. 

Potential Hearings Outcomes

FAQ

Question Answer

Other than revocation, what sanctions can a Hearings Panel impose?

The Commission may impose suspension, probation, and/or mandatory retraining for anything listed as discretionary in RCW 43.101.105.

What happens when both the agency and the Commission impose a suspension or period of probation?

Any suspension or period of probation imposed by the commission runs concurrently to any leave or discipline imposed by the employing agency for the same incident.

An agency may not terminate based solely on imposition of suspension or probation by the Commission.  However, this does not prohibit an agency from terminating an officer based on the underlying acts or omissions for which the commission took such action.

When does the Commission impose suspensions, probation, or re-training?

Such sanctions are imposed at the will of a hearings panel. The Commission is currently developing guidance for hearings panels to fairly and thoughtfully apply such sanctions. This information will be updated ASAP.

Can an officer lose their certification if their agency does not act because of an appeal or there is an agreement?

No action or failure to act by an employing agency, or decision resulting from an appeal of that action precludes action by the commission to suspend or revoke.  The employing agency may not enter into an agreement or contract with the officer or union for the officer to retain certification when there is misconduct.

The agency must timely report conduct and cannot preclude disclosure of any relevant information including, but not limited to, a promise not to check the box on the notice of separation form that would indicate misconduct in exchange for resigning or retiring. The agency cannot agree to destroy or remove a personnel record while the officer is employed - all records are to be retained for 10 years.

Revoked, Lapsed, Expired, and Surrendered Certifications

FAQ

Question Answer

What are the training requirements regarding a lapsed certification vs. an expired certification?

  • A break in service of less than 24 months of a WA state officer does not require additional training if certification is in good standing.
  • A break in service between 24 – 60 months requires the Equivalency Academy to receive certification.
  • A break in service of over 60 months requires the full basic law enforcement or corrections academy.
  • Reserve Officers, part-time, or limited authority officers do not count towards certification.

What happens if an officer resigns and surrenders their certification?

The Commission will proceed with revocation of certification.  The Commission does not have to send the required written notice and information regarding the hearing.  The officer's certification will automatically be revoked.

If a peace officer's certification has been revoked or suspended, can they apply for employment as a corrections officer? If they have been revoked or suspended as a corrections officer, can they apply for employment as a peace officer?

No.  If a peace or corrections officer certification has been revoked or suspended, they cannot request employment and/or certification in the other field.

How can someone request reinstatement of certification?

For reinstatement of certification that has been revoked, please see RCW 43.101.115.

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