A police officer from Edgewood, Indiana recently convicted of reckless homicide never had a proper background check before joining the force, according to a report from the local publication The Herald Bulletin. Under Indiana law, police departments are not legally required to run any background checks on their new hires or recruits. The officer in question joined the Edgewood Police Department in 2003, on the recommendation of the man who was serving as Police Captain at the time. Since the recommendation came from such a trusted source, the Town Marshal opted not to run a background check.
Ultimately, that decision proved highly questionable. In April 2014, the officer in question was off-duty when he drove his SUV into the back of another car. The car he hit had two passengers, a married couple who were due to give birth to their first child later that day. The force of the collision killed the husband, though the wife survived and gave birth to a healthy daughter just hours after the crash.
The police officer got two felony charges for the incident, according to the Herald Bulletin report: one charge of "reckless homicide" and one charge of "criminal recklessness inflicting serious bodily injury." He pleaded guilty to both charges in August and earned an 11-year sentence for his crimes, include eight years behind bars. The Indiana Court of Appeals just affirmed the sentencing recently.
The twist in the case is that the officer arguably never should have been hired to the Edgewood Police Department in the first place. The Herald Bulletin reported that, when he was hired, the officer had faced a total of 17 driver's license suspensions. His record showed a slew of speeding tickets and three convictions for driving with a suspended license.
Since such a large part of a police officer's job revolves around operating a vehicle, those charges would likely have disqualified the man from a job with the force. However, since a background check never took place, no one on the force knew about the officer's egregious disregard for traffic laws.
Whether or not a background check would have prevented the April 2014 crash that resulted in the officer's convictions is hard to say. After all, the officer was off-duty when the collision occurred. Still, the fact that a man with such a poor driving record held a position where he could give citations to other people for traffic violations is something that will likely offend more than a few Indiana taxpayers. That the officer's driving led to such a tragedy only underlines the need for a legislated police background check requirement in the state.