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Boyce ruling overturned

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has overturned a 2009 chancellor's ruling that reinstated Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce to peace officer certification, which allowed him to run for reelection last year.

But the sheriff said he will appeal the ruling, saying the matter was "new legal ground."

The Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST) originally denied Boyce's request for certification on the grounds that he had not completed basic recruit training when he became sheriff in 2006.

Boyce filed a petition for judicial review regarding POST's decision, arguing that his basic recruit training in 1976, when he was a sheriff's deputy, was equivalent to the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy recruit training that was required by POST.

In Oct. 2009, Davidson County Chancellor Russell T. Perkins ruled that Boyce "possesses training that is equivalent to basic recruit training" and directed POST to issue a Certificate of Compliance.

Without that certificate, Boyce could not receive a pay supplement, nor could he have qualified for election to a second term of office as sheriff, to which he was elected last year.

But that decision was overturned late Friday by the appellate court, saying they found no error in POST's decision.

Boyce had argued in his 2009 appeal that the statutory requirement that a sheriff had to obtain POST certification was "an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power."

But the court ruled Friday that "the General Assembly essentially provided that sheriffs are to meet the current professional standards for peace officers as determined by POST."

The court also disagreed with the chancellor's 2009 interpretation and conclusion, giving the opinion that POST has the discretion to determine what is equivalent to its current training requirement.

Boyce said Saturday that he would "absolutely" appeal the decision, but added he did not know where the matter would go from here.

His attorney is researching several legal avenues, Boyce said, stating they were "on new ground here."

"I don't know how long the appeals process will take this time," noting it had been over a year since he won the last legal round.

When asked if this ruling would impact another reelection run, Boyce said "that would depend on what the outcome of the appeal is."

"It kind of shocked us at this point," Boyce said. "We thought this was over, and they would go on and leave it alone, but it only affects me. I'm the only person in the state of Tennessee it affects."

"I don't know why they're doing what they're doing," Boyce said, referring to POST.

Boyce was hired by the City of Shelbyville as a police officer in January 1974 and transferred to the Bedford County Sheriff's Department in September 1974.

In 1976, Boyce successfully completed the Basic Recruit School and was certified as a peace officer by the Tennessee Law Enforcement Planning Commission.

He resigned from the sheriff's department in August 1978 and did not work in law enforcement again until he took office as sheriff in September 2006.

After he took office, Boyce completed new sheriff's school, the required 40-hour annual in-service training, as well as extra courses dealing with major catastrophes and child abuse cases.

He did not believe his health conditions, namely difficulties with his right knee and heart problems, would impair his ability to be sheriff, but would make it hard to complete basic recruit training or a police academy.

When Boyce ran for office it was his understanding that he would have to complete new sheriff's school, but not basic recruit training, but he did not contact POST to determine what his training obligation would be if elected.

"I knew that other (sheriffs) didn't have to go through it (recruit training), but they (POST) wanted me to," Boyce said at the time.

"If you go to school and get a college education, you've always got that college education," the sheriff said in 2009. "That's a 20-year-old man's game to go through that school," referring to the recruit training.

While the matter was in the courts in 2009, Sen. Jim Tracy and former Rep. Curt Cobb even introduced a bill to the Tennessee State Legislature that would have changed the state code, allowing Boyce to be certified, but the effort was unsuccessful.