Court Upholds Probationary Officer’s Termination Though Clearly Troubled By Facts

In October 2005, probationary Officer Nicole Scott of the New Orleans Police Department accidentally backed her private vehicle into another officer’s private vehicle, causing minor damage. Scott was charged with a hit and run violation, which was later dismissed when she entered a guilty plea of improper backing. The Department subsequently terminated Scott’s employment.

Scott challenged her termination through the court system. The Louisiana Court of Appeals upheld the termination.

The Court found that because Scott had seven days left on her probation, she could be terminated for any reason with no right of appeal. The Court stated that “although we may be disturbed by the facts of this case and do not believe that termination was an appropriate penalty, we are unable to grant Scott the remedy she seeks, mainly an appeal to the Commission.”

A concurring judge was even more blunt: “The evidence indicates that Officer Scott served bravely and honorably during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, a time when the City was extremely dangerous and volatile. The incident at issue occurred at the height of this unstable period and involved a highly subjective accounting of what exactly transpired that day. Ultimately, this case is not about whether Officer Scott appropriately handled an ‘improper backing,’ it is about the seven days that separated her from being afforded the full panoply of rights and remedies that only permanent civil service employees enjoy.”

Scott v. Department of Police, 2007 WL 490156 (La.App. 2007).

This article appears in the May 2007 issue