No Due Process Rights When Entire Department Eliminated

A group of officers with the Los Angeles County Office of Public Safety (OPS) sued the County, claiming their due process rights were violated when the County consolidated the operations of the Office into the Sheriff’s Department. The officers contended, among other things, that they were automatically entitled to sworn positions in the Sheriff’s Department.

The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the officers and dismissed their lawsuit. The Court found that “No state or local law granted the officers a legitimate claim of entitlement to continued employment as sworn peace officers upon the elimination of their entire department. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had plenary authority under the County’s charter to implement a workforce reduction plan and consolidate the Los Angeles Office of Public Safety with the Sheriff’s Department. Nothing in either the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights or the Los Angeles County Civil Service Rules entitled the officers to continued employment when the Board eliminated OPS. The Bill of Rights and the Civil Service Rules require administrative hearings only when an officer is being punished, suspended, demoted, or discharged for cause.

“Nor were the officers entitled to a sworn peace officer position with the Sheriff’s Department. OPS and the Sheriff’s Department were separate organizations with separate hiring qualifications, and the Board made clear when it eliminated OPS that existing OPS officers would be placed in the Sheriff’s Department or other County departments only if they met those departments’ qualifications and standards. The officers concede that they did not meet the Sheriff’s Department’s qualifications for sworn deputy sheriff positions, so they did not have a legitimate claim of entitlement to those positions.”

Esparza v. County of Los Angeles, 2013 WL 2512031 (9th Cir. 2013).