Revocation Of Police Certification Does Not Conflict With Civil Service Law

Timothy Hannigan was a police officer employed by the Borough of Darby, Pennsylvania. Hannigan cheated on a mandatory in-service training examination given by the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission. After an investigation in which Hannigan admitted what he had done, the Commission revoked Hannigan’s police officer certification.

Hannigan lodged an appeal with Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court, arguing both that the Commission lacked the authority to enact a rule calling for certification revocation for cheating, and also that the revocation decision usurped the power of his local civil service board.

The Court rejected both arguments. The Court found that Pennsylvania Legislature had delegated to the Commission the broad legislative authority to “make such rules and regulations as may be reasonably necessary or appropriate to implement the education and training program for police officers. To establish that an agency has exceeded its legislative rule-making powers, the regulations must appear to be so entirely at odds with fundamental principles as to be the expression of a whim, rather than an exercise of judgment.

“In adopting the cheating policy, the Commission determined that police officers who cheat on training course examinations commit a serious breach of the high standards of conduct and should not remain certified. The Commission’s determination is consistent with its objectives of maintaining the integrity of police forces and the public confidence and trust. The Commission’s cheating policy is neither arbitrary nor made in bad faith.”

The Court then turned to Hannigan’s civil service argument and found it wanting as well. The Court concluded that “there is no conflict between the Commission’s authority to decertify a police officer and the Borough Civil Service Commission’s authority to remove a police officer from the police force. A revocation of certification and a disciplinary action taken by the Civil Service Commission are subject to separate due process hearings under the respective statutes. The Commission did not terminate Hannigan’s employment in this proceeding. Although his decertification may eventually lead to a separate personnel action, the Commission did not usurp the Civil Service Commission’s authority.”

Hannigan v. Municipal Police Officers’ Educ. and Training Com’n, 2012 WL 5286230 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2012).