The Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, also known as DOPL, is one of seven agencies within the Utah Department of Commerce. DOPL's mission is twofold: protect the public and enhance commerce through licensing and regulation.
DOPL is legislatively charged to administer and enforce specific laws related to the licensing and regulation of certain occupations and professions. The majority of these statutes are located in Utah Code Title 58.
Currently, DOPL issues licenses in approximately 60 categories of licensure. Additionally, the majority of these license categories include several individual license classifications. For example, within the nursing profession, licenses can be obtained for an LPN, RN, CRNA, APRN, or CNM. Annually, DOPL reviews an average of over 43,000 new applications and processes approximately 109,000 renewal applications.
To fulfill its responsibilities, DOPL's efforts are organized into two primary functions: licensing and investigations. DOPL also houses several independent programs related to its licensing and investigative functions. DOPL is headed by a division director who is appointed by the Department of Commerce's Executive Director with the Governor's approval.
Within DOPL's licensing function, responsibilities are divided among seven bureaus focused on the regulation of similar groups of occupations and professions. Each bureau is headed by a bureau manager who is assisted by a board secretary, two or more licensing specialists, and in some cases, several auditors or other licensing or compliance specialists. The staff of each bureau is responsible for processing license applications, answering questions, and responding to other inquiries for each profession within its respective bureau.
Professional licensure requires each applicant to meet some minimum standard for his or her respective occupation or profession. Policies are developed by the licensing boards and DOPL to determine which applications are reviewed and which applicants are interviewed by the respective boards. If the board is not involved in either review, clear-cut requirements are evaluated by DOPL's licensing staff before a license is granted to the applicant.
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DOPL is legislatively responsible to investigate all unlawful and unprofessional practices as detailed in statute or rule that are performed within its regulated occupations and professions.
DOPL's Bureau of Investigations is comprised of approximately 30 investigators who are trained and experienced in investigative procedures. Many of DOPL's investigators are retired law enforcement officers from jurisdictions throughout the state and country. DOPL's investigators and in-house legal counsel work closely with the Utah Attorney General's Office, which provides DOPL with legal assistance for licensure and investigative functions.
Upon receipt of a complaint of unprofessional or unlawful conduct, investigative personnel enter the information into a computerized database. Complaints are not only posted for immediate investigative purposes, but also for analyzing long-term patterns of behavior. Complaints are confidential in nature and are not generally available to the public. However, in certain situations, the information contained in a complaint may be shared with other governmental agencies — if the other agency demonstrates a legal basis for the sharing of the information.
Complaints are reviewed by DOPL's chief investigator or by an investigative supervisor who determines its priority for investigation. At times, however, DOPL is legally unable to investigate or take action on a complaint due to lack of authority or jurisdiction. It may also be determined that the complaint would be better handled by another agency. In either situation, the complaint would be referred to the appropriate agency for review.