James Bragg worked as a patrol officer for the City of Stuttgart, Arkansas. On the evening of October 8, 2003, Bragg was off duty eating dinner with his wife and Sergeant Shonda Underwood at the Wildlife Bar and Grill, a restaurant located just outside the city limits in Arkansas County. During Bragg’s dinner the owner of the restaurant approached Bragg and asked him if he would remove an individual who was disrupting the restaurant’s business. Bragg observed that the individual was loitering and intoxicated, and escorted him out of the restaurant.
As Bragg was preparing to leave, he and Underwood noticed that the individual was “messing around” with some of the vehicles in the parking lot. While Underwood called the police department, Bragg approached the individual, identified himself as a police officer, and attempted to subdue him. Bragg slipped and twisted his ankle, tearing ligaments in his right ankle and breaking the fibula in his right leg.
When Bragg filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the City opposed it, arguing that Bragg was “neither providing employment services nor in the course of his employment at the time of the injury.” The Arkansas Court of Appeals disagreed with the City, and upheld Bragg’s claims.
The Court found that “it has been said that a police officer is on duty 24 hours a day and may at any moment be called into service, either by his superiors or by what he observes. The fact that an officer is off duty does not relieve him/her of his obligation to preserve the peace. Here, while off duty, Bragg observed an individual, who he had encountered earlier, engaged in questionable conduct on the restaurant’s parking lot. His off-duty status did not relieve him of his sworn duty to preserve the peace and dignity of the State of Arkansas.”
As to the City’s argument that Bragg was out of the City’s jurisdiction when his injury occurred, the Court found that an unwritten agreement existed between the City and the County that provided that their officers would assist one another. The Court noted that Bragg, while on duty, had been dispatched to the Wildlife Bar and Grill on several occasions. The Court concluded that “by acting when he did, Bragg was advancing the City’s interest in upholding its end of the agreement.”
City of Stuttgart v. Bragg, 2006 WL 557100 (Ark.App. 2006).
This article appears in the May 2006 issue