MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The standards for becoming a police officer in Minnesota could soon be lowered to accept candidates convicted of some misdemeanor crimes.
The Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, which licenses police officers, has proposed the broadest easing of its standards for would-be officers in its 22-year history.
Among the rules now open for public comment is an end to automatic disqualification from police service for those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of theft, engaging in prostitution, false government claims and medical assistance fraud.
''Everybody knows of a person who would be a damn good cop except for a silly mistake,'' said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the 6,900-member Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. ''But some people think it's a foot in the door, and they want to know how far we're going to take this.''
The issue will likely be debated at the association's annual convention June 12 and 13 in Alexandria, Flaherty said. So far, the association, the state's largest organization of rank-and-file police officers, has taken no position on the proposal.
Significant opposition from the membership or others could lead to formal hearings on the proposed rules before an administrative law judge. If little or no opposition arises, the changes could take effect as early as next month.
Under the proposed rules, police officers would still lose their jobs for offenses that would not bar candidates from entering the profession.
''Police officers have a higher standard,'' said St. Paul Police Chief Bill Finney, who supports the new approach. ''But if you do something stupid before you're sworn, it's not a violation of the trust and oath.''
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