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Non-Shaving Deputy Wins Punitive Damages, Attorney Fees

Lavanden Darks is one of four black deputies with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in Missouri. Jackson County employs approximately 100 sworn officers. In 2014, Jackson County required all sworn officers appearing in uniform to be clean shaven with the exception of moustaches. Darks experienced pain with shaving and was medically diagnosed with an inflammatory skin condition known as psuedofolliculitis barbae. After attempting several treatments and other shaving methods,…

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‘Failure To Train’ Claim Must Show Deliberate Indifference

Jo Anne Pepitone is a police sergeant in the Lower Merion, Pennsylvania Police Department. Pepitone sued the Department, alleging that “there have been numerous sexually charged rumors circulating throughout the police department that have contributed to creating a sexually hostile and gender discriminatory hostile work environment,” including rumors that Pepitone had “sexual relationships with her supervisors and members of neighboring police departments” and “was promoted because of a sexual…

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Inadvertent Recording Of Calls On Police Line Does Not Violate Wiretap Laws

In November 2016, the Grand Rapids Police Department dispatched an officer to a car accident site. The driver of the car, a Kent County assistant prosecutor, drove down a one-way street and struck a parked car. The on-scene officer called Lieutenant Matthew Janiskee on a recorded, public line – Line 3604 – and explained the accident; Janiskee responded that the officer should hang up and call him on a…

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Internal Affairs Findings Not Admissible In Civil Lawsuit Against Officer

In 2013, Keith Manson was riding his dirt bike on Flint Street in New Haven, Connecticut. At the same time, Daniel Conklin, an on-duty New Haven police officer, was driving his marked police cruiser on Flint Street, in the opposite direction in which Manson was traveling. As Conklin drove down Flint Street, he observed a father with his young child playing in the street. To provide sufficient space to…

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Double Jeopardy Results In Reversal Of Suspension For Racial Slur

An unnamed Cincinnati, Ohio police officer (employees are often not named in reported disciplinary arbitration decisions) responded to a call at an apartment complex on September 26, 2018. Identified only as Officer , he met the individuals outside the apartment complex and determined that the residents were intoxicated. The officer recognized two of them from working in the community. After directing two male individuals to leave, the men got…

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EMS Captain’s Facebook Post May Be Constitutionally Protected

Jamie Marquardt was a captain with City of Cleveland’s Department of Emergency Medical Services. Marquardt had a “private” Facebook page which did not identify him as a City employee. A little more than a year after a Cleveland police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a post appeared on Marquardt’s Facebook page: “Let me be the first on record to have the balls to say Tamir Rice should…

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No Retaliation If Decision-Maker Unaware Of Protected Activity

Aubrey Lyons is an African-American corrections officer with the Michigan Department of Corrections. After being transferred in 2012 to the Macomb Correctional Facility, Lyons allegedly began to experience various incidents of discrimination by his white supervisors. Lyons filed his first internal discrimination complaint against the Department in January 2015 in response to being disciplined for violating its computer use policies. Lyons claimed the white investigating lieutenant, James Webster, singled…

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Pre-Existing PTSD Does Not Bar Officer’s Disability Claim

Detective Christopher Sardo worked for the Village of Franklin Park, Illinois. Sardo served in the United States Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991, including a tour of duty in Desert Storm. Besides physical danger, his service exposed him to several traumatic events, including fellow Marines being shot at and killed. After his discharge, Sardo experienced depression, flashbacks, and panic attacks. Sardo became a Franklin Park police officer in January…

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Court Upholds Officer’s $500k Judgment Against Sergeant

Officer Detlef Sommerfield works for the Chicago Police Department. Sommerfield was born and raised in Germany, where some of his family members had died in concentration camps during the Holocaust. At some point he emigrated to the United States, settled in Chicago, and joined the CPD. His supervisor was Sergeant Lawrence Knasiak. As the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals described it, “for years, Sommerfield endured vicious anti-Semitic abuse…

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Officer’s Brady Lawsuit Against Prosecutor Survives

On February 8, 2017, Assistant Burleigh County (North Dakota) State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer received an anonymous letter concerning a Bismarck police officer’s destruction of evidence. The letter prompted Lawyer to review the files of all approximately 100 active, sworn Bismarck police personnel. As part of her investigation, Lawyer reviewed the file of Sergeant Robyn Krile. In Krile’s file, Lawyer discovered two letters of reprimand and several performance evaluations which…

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Q & A

From Arizona:Question: I was wondering if you had any case law specific to masks and religion or anything you could point me to that predates the pandemic? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Answer: I’m unaware of any cases on masks and religion. From analogous cases, I can predict how such a case would likely come out. There are a number of religious discrimination cases involving grooming (e.g., hair…

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Budget Discussions Do Not Equal Negotiations

In late 2012, the City of Portland, Oregon began its budget process for the 2013-14 fiscal year anticipating a shortfall. The City asked the Fire Bureau to develop its budget using a modified zero-based budget approach, requesting up to 90 percent of current appropriation levels with prioritized add-back packages for cut items. The Bureau developed its proposed budget through a budgetary advisory committee. Alan Ferschweiler, the president of the…

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Labor Board Refuses To Sever Detectives From Sworn Unit

On October 4, 2019, the St. Petersburg Police Officers’ Association, Inc. (POA) filed a petition seeking to represent a bargaining unit consisting of police detectives employed by the City of St. Petersburg, Florida. The detectives are currently represented by the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association, Inc. (Sun Coast), as part of a bargaining unit that includes the classifications of police officer, forensic services technician, and latent print examiner. Florida’s…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Opinion On Fire Union Meetings

Firefighters for the Dracut Fire Department in Massachusetts are represented by IAFF Local 2586. Local 2586 holds meetings on a monthly basis. By necessity, these meetings are scheduled during a shift. Prior to 1986, union meetings were held off-site, at bars or in restaurants. In 1986, the parties agreed that, in order to ensure attendance at meetings by members and union officers assigned to work the shift when the…

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Court Rejects Lawsuit From Deputy Shot By Reserve

On April 5, 2016, Casey Huepenbecker and Marcus Newell were receiving firearms training at a range operated by the City of Napoleon, Ohio. During a break, Huepenbecker asked for, and received, permission to clean his weapon. Shortly after cleaning the gun, he set it on a picnic table near where other trainees were relaxing. It fired and the bullet hit Newell in the back. The shot damaged his liver,…

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ADA Does Not Require Light Duty For Oft-Injured Officer

Kristal Scott suffered multiple injuries during the time that she was employed as a Detroit police officer. In 2011, she fell down the stairs while on duty responding to a call. On July 13, 2012, during job-required scooter training, she crashed her scooter into a metal barricade at low speed when an insect flew into her helmet and she attempted to avoid hitting a bike. On September 20, 2012,…

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The ‘Not A Sharp Operator’ Defense

In May 2012 Valent Maxwell, a police officer for the City of Klawock, Alaska, accepted a law enforcement job in Fairview, Montana. He left some belongings in his city-owned apartment in Klawock, sold some, and moved or shipped the rest to Montana. Shortly after starting the new job, however, he quit, finding his salary inadequate to meet the cost of living. He returned to his job in Klawock, having…

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Employer Not Allowed To Unilaterally Extend Probationary Period

After graduating from the Los Angeles County police academy, Christopher Trejo was hired by the County as a Deputy Sheriff Generalist on February 23, 2014. Trejo’s 12-month probationary period started that day. About four months later, Trejo was involved in a use-of-force incident which triggered an investigation. The incident involved a handcuffed inmate who was kicking and pulling away from officers. This commotion attracted the attention of several officers,…

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Patronage Allowed In Missouri Sheriff Departments

After Sheriff Joey Kyle resigned from the Christian County, Missouri Sheriff’s Office following his guilty plea for violating federal law, four candidates ran for sheriff in the general election, including Brad Cole (Republican candidate) and Keith Mills (Independent candidate). Mills was the only candidate who was employed by the Sheriff’s Office. Between Kyle’s resignation and the election, Dwight McNiel served as the interim sheriff. As the only internal candidate,…

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Disciplinary Arbitration Decision May Be Subject To Public Disclosure

New Hampshire’s public records act is known as the “Right-to-Know Law.” For many years, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has held that the “internal personnel practices” exception in the Law shielded disciplinary arbitration decisions from disclosure. In May 2020, the Court changed its mind. The new case involved the 2015 termination of City of Portsmouth police officer Aaron Goodwin. The charges against Goodwin related to his relationship with the…

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Gradual Work-Related Hearing Loss Not Covered By Workers’ Comp In Louisiana

James Hartman began working with the St. Bernard Parish Fire Department in Louisiana in 1990. His work exposed him to high noise levels, which caused him to undergo audiograms on January 24, 2008, April 10, 2014, March 1, 2017, and September 27, 2017. The audiograms showed increasing levels of hearing loss. The March 1, 2017 and September 27, 2017 audiograms revealed a 42.2% binaural hearing loss. Although Hartman continued…

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Contracts And Memoranda Of Understanding

In February 2017, the City of Brook Park, Ohio, passed an ordinance calling for the City to pay hospitalization and/or medical insurance benefits to a group of retired employees in an amount that equated to $100 per month. Lodge 17 of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the City’s police officers, filed a grievance challenging the ordinance. The FOP claimed that the ordinance violated the terms of a…

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Public Records Law Prevails Over Purging Clause In Contract

Since January 1981, the City of Chicago and the Fraternal Order of Police, Chicago Lodge No. 7, have been parties to a collective bargaining agreement. Section 8.4 of the CBA calls for the purging from employee disciplinary files of materials “five (5) years after the date of the incident or the date upon which the violation is discovered, whichever is longer.” The City destroyed records subject to Section 8.4…

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Lack Of Response From Dispatch Basis For PTSD Claim

Kimberly Nelson, a Chicago police officer, responded to a dispatch report that there was a “possible kidnapping of a FedEx driver” on 80th Street. Nelson inquired where exactly on 80th Street the incident had occurred. Eventually, the dispatcher replied, “Units in 6, we have a robbery, an armed robbery of a FedEx driver, 708 East 80th.” Nelson, who was nearby, headed to the location while calling “652 for information.”…

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