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No Immunity For Officer Who Used Service Weapon To Commit Crime

Merlin Alston was a New York City police officer. In 2016, Alston was convicted of two federal crimes: (1) Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and a quantity of the controlled substance MDMA; and (2) Possessing a firearm in furtherance of that drug trafficking offense. Alston was sentenced to 240 months of imprisonment. Alston appealed his conviction, raising a number…

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Sergeant Forfeits Retirement Upon Conviction Of Internet Sex Crime

In 2005, Brian O’Hare, a sergeant with the Massachusetts State Police, began communicating online with an individual whom he believed to be a 14-year-old boy. O’Hare used a family computer while off duty to communicate with the “youth,” who in fact was an undercover FBI agent. In February 2006, O’Hare was arrested by the FBI after arriving at a prearranged meeting place to meet the youth for sexual purposes….

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Firefighter Convicted Of ‘Terroristic Threat’

Scott Niles had been a firefighter with the Houston Fire Department for four months when a series of events happened that led to his criminal conviction of making a “terroristic threat.” It all started on April 29, 2014, when Captain Bradley Maddin became aware that Niles did not have a valid driver’s license. Maddin brought concerns over Niles’s lack of a license to his senior captain, Andrew Haygood. Subsequently,…

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Q & A

From Connecticut Question: Is there a law that prohibits the commanding officer/chief from being in the same Union as those under his/her command? Seems like Union protection and management rights conflict. Answer: There’s no national-level law on this issue. The composition of bargaining units is exclusively a matter of state law. In some states, even a chief can be in a bargaining unit where in others it would be…

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Acquittal In Criminal Case Does Not Mean Firefighter Could Not Be Fired

Robert Howell is a firefighter with the Seattle Fire Department. After an afternoon of off-duty drinking with a firefighter friend and the friend’s girlfriend, Howell and company came across homeless people on the Fallen Firemen Memorial. The Memorial includes several bronze firefighter figures and a series of abstract slabs, one of which is about bench height. It is quite common for park users – tourists, office workers, or homeless…

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Felony Conviction Disqualifies Florida Firefighter From Promotion

Andrew Thomas Giamberini was initially certified as a firefighter in Florida in 1996. At the time, Florida’s Department of Financial Services, which certifies firefighters in Florida, was aware that Giamberini had pleaded no contest to a felony charge of aggravated battery without a firearm in 1993. The criminal court withheld adjudication of guilt and sentenced Giamberini to probation. Under Florida’s statutes, Giamberini’s 1993 plea to the felony charge did…

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Officer Gambles, Repudiates Disciplinary Settlement Agreement With City, But Loses Job In Process

In November 2006, Cathedral City, California Police Officer Thomas Ferguson was arrested during a videotaped sting operation conducted in the City of Ontario after Ferguson agreed to pay an undercover police officer $40 for oral sex. Ferguson exited the I–10 freeway in Ontario and parked near a woman he had seen standing on the street. An undercover officer was posing as a prostitute. Ferguson motioned to the officer and…

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Civil Service Commission Can ‘Look Beneath The Surface’ Of Firefighter Applicants Criminal Diversion Agreement

When Seay Fletcher applied to be a firefighter with Newark, New Jersey, the local Merit System Board rejected his application, basing its decision in part on the fact that Fletcher was arrested on December 20, 2000 for the possession of drugs with intent to distribute in a school zone and that he was again arrested on July 25, 2006 by the New Jersey State Police on charges of racketeering…

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Town Not Liable For Prosecution Of Police Officer

Robert Grinham was a police sergeant in the Town of Easton, Massachusetts Police Department. As a result of a beating he gave a prisoner, which was witnessed by fellow police officers, he was ultimately fired. Grinham thrice appealed his termination, and lost at every level. Grinham was indicted by a grand jury, but was acquitted by a trial jury. Grinham then sued his supervisors, claiming that they maliciously caused…

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Prosecutor Has Immunity For Placing Officer On Brady List

Mark Neri was a Ceres, California police officer. On April 28, 2008, the District Attorney’s Office of Stanislaus County informed the Ceres Police Chief that Neri’s name was going to be placed on a “Brady List” and that several hundred pages of documents pertaining to Neri would be disclosed to criminal defendants. The District Attorney’s Office does not have any objective criteria for why or how the DA selects…

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Union Wins ‘Public Policy’ Challenge To Arbitrator’s Opinion

Most states, and the United States Supreme Court, have found a narrow “public policy” exception to the general rule that arbitrators’ opinions are final and binding. The usual rubric is that for the exception to apply, there must be an “explicit, well defined and dominant public policy” violated by the arbitrator’s decision. Usually, the “public policy” exception is the province of employers seeking to overturn arbitration awards. Because of…

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Significant Garrity Decision From Georgia Supreme Court

A Georgia police officer’s indictment for murder has produced an important decision on whether a seemingly voluntary statement can be considered to be “coerced” for purposes of Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967). At approximately 3:15 a.m. on September 12, 2006, the DeKalb County, Georgia Police Department received a 911 call reporting a stolen motor vehicle from an apartment complex. When officers arrived, they learned that the…

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Compelled Internal Affairs Interview Not ‘Seizure’ For Fourth Amendment Purposes

Lawrence Goodine was a police officer for the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee. In early 2007, after complaints from several suspects, the Department’s Internal Affairs division began investigating Goodine. On March 7, 2007, Internal Affairs officers approached Goodine during roll call and ordered him to accompany them back to their offices. Goodine was escorted into a police vehicle and driven to another location. Internal Affairs officers then advised Goodine in…

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Lieutenant Does Not Forfeit Pension For Illegally Accessing Civil Service Files

A Massachusetts state statute calls for the forfeiture of a public employee’s pension “after final conviction of a criminal offense involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position.” Edward Bettencourt was a lieutenant with the Peabody, Massachusetts Police Department. On Christmas Day, 2004, while on duty as watch commander, Bettencourt used an office computer to access the Massachusetts Human Resources Division Applicant Record Information site in…

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The High Hurdle Of Showing That Employees Are Similarly Situated For Discrimination Purposes

Calvin Chism, an African-American, was employed for 16 years as a firefighter in Forrest City, Arkansas. Chism had been arrested several times for various charges during his tenure with the Department, including arrests for third degree battery in 1992, for assault in 1994, for aggravated assault in 2003, for two counts of third-degree battery in 2005, for two counts of domestic battery in 2005, and for harassing communications in…

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Exception In Statute Of Limitations In Bill Of Rights Applies Even To Officers Who Are Not Criminally Charged

Matthias Huelsse was employed by Santa Clara County as a correctional officer. On August 8, 2005, Huelsse and another correctional officer, Officer Aguiniga, were involved in a physical altercation with an inmate in the main jail intake booking area. Huelsse witnessed the use of force by Officer Aguiniga and did not intervene. On the same day, the inmate made a complaint against Officers Aguiniga and Huelsse concerning this incident….

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Court Dismisses Federal Criminal Charges Against San Diego Pension Trustees

Potentially bringing to an end one of the most protracted criminal prosecutions of public pension trustees, a federal court in California has dismissed all charges against five trustees of San Diego’s troubled pension fund. The trustees were charged with the violation of Section 1346 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which forbids entering into a “scheme or artifice to defraud another of the intangible right of honest…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Opinion Reversing Administrative Suspension Without Pay Pending Investigation

Christopher Winesburg is a trooper employed by the Pennsylvania State Police. During the weekend of March 1, 2008, Winesburg was involved in an incident with a woman after both left a nightclub in Ocean City, Maryland. Ocean City police were called to the scene, but they did not file criminal charges against Winesburg. Twelve days later, however, the woman filed a private complaint against Winesburg, and he was charged…

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Ohio Supreme Court Decides Major Garrity Case

A recent decision from the Ohio Supreme Court addresses some important questions under the rule of Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967). The Garrity rule states that if a public employee is compelled to answer questions as part of a disciplinary interview, neither the employee’s answers nor the “fruits” of the answers can be used to criminally prosecute the employee. The case involved Anthony Jackson, a police…

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Administrative Leave Improper, Termination Proper

A police officer for the Town of Hooksett, Massachusetts, who was just off of probation, was involved in an off-duty motor vehicle accident. The Town initially placed the officer on unpaid administrative leave and, after an investigation, terminated him. The officer’s labor organization, Local 633 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, challenged both the administrative leave and the termination in arbitration. An arbitrator found that the use of administrative…

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Eleven Tons Of Gravel In Ex-Girlfriend’s Driveway Leads To Officer’s Termination

Duane Winchell was a deputy sheriff employed by Riverside County, California. Winchell was involved in a romantic relationship with a woman referred to in the Court’s opinion only as “Ms. Keegan.” Early in 2002, Ms. Keegan wanted to break off the relationship; Winchell disagreed and became upset that Keegan was seeing another man. Winchell went to Keegan’s residence on April 5, 2002, saw a vehicle in her driveway that…

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Detective Loses Malicious Prosecution Claim

Gary Felt was a detective with the Bellevue, Washington Police Department for 24 years. Felt helped establish the peer counseling program. As part of the program, in December 2003, Felt met with Officer Heidi Moon, who told him she had been sexually assaulted by a fellow officer at her home in Renton. Felt urged Moon to file a criminal complaint with the Renton Police Department. Felt later learned that…

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Officer Does Not Establish Necessary ‘Perversion Of Process’

Michael Watson was a police officer with the Jamestown, New York Police Department. Watson was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in connection with its investigation of a missing woman with whom Watson had a relationship. The FBI reported to the Department that its investigation revealed that Watson had been stalking women. The Department launched an internal investigation and, after receiving statements from three women, prepared a warrant…

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Criminal Investigation Tolls Statute Of Limitations Even On Non-Criminal Charges

Jerry Lucio was a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. In the course of his duties, Lucio met a woman who had attempted to commit suicide. Two months later, Lucio, who had just broken up with his girlfriend, went to the woman’s residence and began a personal relationship and subsequent intimate relationship with her. After several months, the woman called Internal Affairs, complaining that Lucio had threatened…

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Resignation Deprives Officers Of Ability To File Lawsuit

Grant Spinks, Robert Kovacs, and Michael Exley were police officers in Clinton, New Jersey. In 2001, the Police Department conducted an internal investigation based on complaints of malingering by some officers. The investigation revealed that several officers, including Spinks, Kovacs, and Exley, had been idle when they claimed to be working. The Township submitted the ultimate results of its investigation to a County prosecutor, who filed criminal charges. In…

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