If Time Limits In Bill Of Rights Not Met, Discipline Is Void

Under Louisiana’s Police Officer’s Bill of Rights, every investigation of a law enforcement officer “shall be completed within 60 days from the date that the investigation is initiated.” The Bill of Rights is specific as to the consequences of failing to meet this deadline, providing: “There shall be no discipline of any sort taken against a law enforcement officer unless the investigation complies with these minimum standards,” and any discipline imposed on “a law enforcement officer without complete compliance with the forgoing minimum standards is an absolute nullity.”

On November 23, 2009, Quanetia Davis and Kyana Boykins initiated a complaint alleging criminal misconduct by their arresting officers in the early morning of November 8, 2009. On July 4, 2010, Officer Thomas McMasters received notice that the internal disciplinary investigation into the complaint had been completed. On February 16, 2011, McMasters received notice of a disciplinary hearing to be held on March 16, 2011, and on March 25, 2011, the Department terminated McMasters for violation of a rule “relative to amoral conduct by committing false imprisonment.”

The Louisiana Court of Appeals overturned McMasters’ discipline. The Court found that “because the investigation of McMasters began on November 23, 2009, it had to be completed within 60 days, or by January 22, 2010. But the earliest notification that McMasters received was on July 4, 2010, a full 162 days after the statutory 60-day period expired. This notice, then, was not sufficient to complete an investigation because it did not timely alert McMasters as to whether a disciplinary hearing was definitively required. The notice stated: ‘You will be notified if a disciplinary hearing is required.’ This is not sufficient notice to complete an investigation.

“McMasters did receive a ‘Disciplinary Hearing Notification’ on February 16, 2011 that would have been sufficient to complete the investigation because this later notice did inform McMasters of the date of his disciplinary hearing. This later notice, however, was sent over one year after the investigatory period had elapsed. Thus, the investigation failed to completely comply with the minimum standards of the Bill of Rights. Consequently, the discipline imposed on McMasters is an absolute nullity.”

The Department argued that investigations involving criminal activity toll the 60-day period to complete investigations. However, the Court found that “we have previously found that nothing in the Bill of Rights creates a tolling period affecting the beginning or end of the administrative investigation. Accordingly, we declare all discipline imposed an absolute nullity. We order the reinstatement of McMasters to his prior position along with restoration of all back pay and emoluments.”

McMasters v. Department of Police, 2013 WL 5568734 (La. App. 2013).