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Officer Cannot Be Held Responsible For ‘Newspaper’s Premature Judgment’

Officers in the Montgomery, Minnesota Police Department are represented by Local 87 of Law Enforcement Labor Services. A grievance filed by Local 87 challenging a 21-day suspension issued to an officer produced a significant decision involving the importance of media publicity in the disciplinary context. Though there were several disciplinary charges against the officer, the most important stemmed from a family gathering attended by the officer, his wife, and…

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Fire Union’s Failure To Challenge Discipline Not Breach Of DFR

Richard Kelly, a Ferndale, Michigan firefighter, brought an unfair labor practice charge against his union, Local 812 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Kelly claimed that the Union’s failure to arbitrate his grievance challenging a reprimand and two-shift suspension violated Local 812’s duty of fair representation. Michigan’s Employment Relations Commission dismissed the ULP complaint. The Commission recited the fact that “a union’s duty of fair representation requires it…

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Firefighter Loses Job Over Family Dispute Between Supervisors

Glen Naghtin was a firefighter for the Montague, Michigan Fire Department. Two brothers, Donald and Dennis Roesler, also worked for the Department. Donald was a unit captain and Dennis was the Fire Chief. In 2009, the Fire District’s Board authorized the construction of a new fire station. After construction had commenced, Donald Roesler began expressing concerns about the structure, including numerous fire-code violations and deviations from the station’s planned…

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‘Last-Chance’ Agreement Means What It Says

Occasionally, employees with a pattern of misbehavior enter into “last-chance” agreements in lieu of termination. Under those agreements, an employer agrees not to terminate an employee for whatever the employee’s current offense is, and the employee agrees that a finding of future misconduct will result in the loss of the employee’s job. Fox Lake, Illinois Police Officer Tom Olson got to his last-chance agreement in a different manner. Olson…

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Court Overturns Termination Of Deputy Who Tested Positive For Steroid Metabolites

Richard Orosco was employed as a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff from 2001 to 2008. In September 2007, officers from the Long Beach Police Department responded to a domestic violence call at the home where he lived with his girlfriend, Veronica Hernandez, and their infant son. The officers determined that Hernandez was the aggressor and arrested her. The police report contained her statement that Orosco was taking illegal steroids…

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In Denver, Burden Of Proof In Discipline Cases Is On Officer

Labor issues in Colorado are handled under a patchwork quilt of laws. Firefighters are covered by a statewide bargaining law; police and sheriffs are not, and where law enforcement bargaining occurs, it is pursuant to local charter provisions and ordinances. Some local charters have broad definitions of what is negotiable, while others contain narrow lists of bargainable topics. Denver falls in the latter category, and a topic that has…

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Failure To Provide Transcript Results In Demotion Being Overturned

The Indianapolis Police Department demoted Sergeant Brad Bentley to patrol officer. The City’s Police Merit Board upheld the demotion, and Bentley filed a petition for judicial review on September 10, 2014. A provision in the Indianapolis City Code requires the City to file the transcript from a Merit Board hearing within 30 days of receiving a court summons. The City failed to comply with the transcript requirement, did not…

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Disciplinary Time Limits Tolled While Criminal Investigation Ongoing

Shiekh Iqbal is a parole agent for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. In the course of his job, he developed a close working relationship with the Union City Police Department and would often contact UCPD with work-related inquiries for criminal history information on subjects through the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System or through the Alameda County Consolidated Records Information Management System. On October 29, 2007, Iqbal contacted…

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Chicago Police Disciplinary Records Subject To Disclosure In Spite Of Contract Clauses

The Chicago Tribune and Sun Times filed a request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking the production of “complaint registers” (CR) maintained by the Chicago Police Department. The request included a list of the names of police officers who had received at least one complaint, as well as the officer’s date of appointment, the complaint category, the CR number, the incident date, the date the complaint…

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Police Board Can Increase Disciplinary Penalty

Where public safety employees do not have “at-will” status, there are three ways of appealing discipline: to arbitration, to court, or to some form of police, fire or civil service board. Those unused to this third option may find it surprising that the hearing boards may have the ability to actually increase the discipline imposed by the employer. And so it was in the case of Chicago police officer…

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Statute Of Limitations Trips Up New Orleans In Police Discipline Case

Jamal Kendrick was a New Orleans police officer. On August 6, 2012, Kendrick, who was driving a one-man police vehicle, stopped a suspect, Tony Gaines, for a traffic violation. Kendrick discovered that Gaines had an outstanding arrest warrant for domestic abuse battery. Kendrick arrested Gaines for the outstanding warrant. During the arrest, Kendrick discovered that Gaines had marijuana in his pocket. Kendrick discarded the marijuana, declined to charge Gaines…

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In North Carolina, Sheriff’s Employees Are Not County Employees

When Daniel Bailey was elected to the office of Sheriff of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, he immediately fired Deputy Sheriff Terri Young, who had failed to contribute to Bailey’s election campaign. Young sued, citing a North Carolina statute that “no county employee may be required as a duty or condition of employment, promotion, or tenure of office to contribute funds for political or partisan purposes.” The statute defines a…

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New Jersey Courts Need Not Necessarily Consider Progressive Discipline

Dana Register was a corrections officer for the New Jersey Department of Corrections, and was assigned to the Mountainview Correctional Facility. On September 9, 2013, the DOC’s Special Investigations Division (SID) received an anonymous note, which stated: “SCO Register is messing with an inmate in the Full Minimum Unit. She is getting out of hand. She writes him letters and mails them from a P.O. Box in Easton,…

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Texas Disciplinary Procedures Do Not Create Property Right

On May 6, 2014, Stephen Stem, a second-year officer at the Hearne, Texas Police Department, was dispatched to the home of Hearne resident Pearlie Golden. Roy Jones, Golden’s nephew, placed the emergency call. Jones said Golden, who had recently failed a driver’s license renewal test, threatened him with a gun after he had taken away her car keys. Stem recounted that when he arrived at the home, Golden pointed…

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Court Upholds Arbitration Decision Overturning ‘Sexting’ Detective’s Termination

Detective Vincent Lucarelli works for the Cleveland, Ohio Police Department. In May 2012, the Department’s Internal Affairs Unit commenced an investigation into Lucarelli’s conduct. Cell phone records, which had been subpoenaed for a criminal case involving private investigator Brenda Bickerstaff, revealed that during his shifts, Lucarelli had been inappropriately texting or “sexting” women, including the victims in several criminal cases on which he had worked or was currently working….

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Court Reverses Trooper’s Suspension For Failing To Take Action

Michele Garitta is a State Trooper for the New Jersey State Police. On August 17, 2012, Garitta and her husband attended a country music concert at the PNC Arts Center. The Center is located across the road from the Patrol’s road station in Holmdel. As the couple parked their car, Garitta saw a number of troopers patrolling the area. Garitta secured her service weapon in her car because firearms…

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What Is Reasonable Notice Of Disciplinary Charges?

California’s Police Officer’s Bill of Rights provides that a public safety officer under investigation by his or her department “shall be informed of the nature of the investigation prior to any interrogation.” A recent case out of the California Court of Appeals answered the question: How much “prior to” any interrogation must the officer be given that information? The case involved John Ellins, an officer for the Sierra Madre…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Opinion In Deadly Force Case

On January 29, 2010, while on duty, Portland Police Officer Ron Frashour shot and killed Aaron Campbell, who was unarmed. The incident began as a welfare check. Police had received a call that Campbell, who possessed a gun and was distraught over the recent death of his brother, might be in a certain apartment, might be suicidal, and might be threatening to commit “suicide by police.” The situation escalated…

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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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Disciplinary Transfer Held Subject To Grievance Procedure

Sergeant Charles Jenkins works for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department as a property crimes supervisor. In February 2011, after investigating an internal complaint against him, the Department issued Jenkins a written reprimand for violating its harassment and discrimination policy. The reprimand, which Jenkins signed, did not mention a transfer to a new assignment. Nonetheless, the Department transferred Jenkins on the same day he signed the reprimand. The transfer…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Decision Reinstating Supervisors In Cleveland Pursuit Case

On November 29, 2012, Cleveland police made a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Timothy Russell and occupied by Malissa Williams. When Officer John Jordan approached the vehicle, it fled west on Superior Avenue, prompting Jordan to pursue the vehicle. Jordan, however, ultimately stopped the chase after he lost sight of the vehicle. Jordan did not broadcast his traffic stop or his pursuit. A few minutes later, the…

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Fire Chief’s Discipline Violates Due Process

Jesus “Jesse” Alba became chief of the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin Fire Department in May 2013. Two months later, the City of Waukesha mayor filed charges alleging that Alba had violated Department rules and the City’s anti-harassment policy. The mayor alleged that Alba had not disclosed during his interview for the position that he and a Department employee under his command had an affair in 2012 or that, when…

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Texas Disciplinary Procedures Even Apply To At-Will Employees

Marc Staff was a deputy sheriff for the Colorado County, Texas Sheriff’s Department. The Department began an investigation. The inquiry began when Colorado County Attorney Ken Sparks contacted the Sheriff’s Department, provided the video recording of a traffic stop that Staff had conducted, and expressed his concern that Staff’s behavior during the stop was inappropriate. Sparks never wrote and signed a complaint regarding his concerns over Staff’s behavior. The…

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The Negotiability Of A Disciplinary Matrix

Disciplinary matrices are a curious feature of public safety employee labor relations. The interest in matrices waxes and wanes over time, with some employers adopting them even as other employers are discarding them. What is not always recognized is that in states with collective bargaining, the adoption or abandonment of a disciplinary matrix is very likely a mandatory subject for bargaining, and cannot be done unilaterally by an employer….

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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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