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Administrative Leave Can Last Too Long

While on patrol on February 17, 2011, Officer Paul Tracey of the City of Waltham, Massachusetts was asked by a friend to help him obtain information from tenants he was attempting to remove from an apartment his family owned in Waltham. After accompanying his friend to the apartment and obtaining information from Edgar Gonzalez and his younger brother, Tracey left the apartment. Gonzalez immediately began complaining to the police…

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Expired Prescription Does Not Mean Deputy Violated Drug Policy

Mister Walker (that’s his real first name) has been a deputy sheriff with Cook County, Illinois for 32 years. When Walker’s random drug test was positive for oxazepam, the County opened an investigation into his drug use. During the investigation, Walker provided multiple prescription bottles, including ones from 1995 and 2000, one of which included a medication that would yield a positive result for oxazepam. A merit board conducted…

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No Privacy Claim For Officer Whose Disciplinary Records Were Released To Press

Donald J. Huston is a police officer employed by the Meriden, Connecticut Police Department. In April 2011, the City released information from Huston’s personnel file to the press during an interview with reporters of the local newspaper. Among the items released was a letter of reprimand Huston received in 2007. Huston alleged that the letter should have been removed from the personnel file after two years, but never was….

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Officer Cannot Be Forced To Testify In Pre-Discipline Hearing

Leon Dykas was a police officer for the Worcester, Massachusetts Police Department. In 2008, Dykas was purported to have engaged in noncriminal misconduct involving his ex-wife in violation of a “Last Chance Settlement Agreement” into which he had entered with the Department. Dykas cooperated with the Department’s internal investigation and attended an investigatory interview at the Department’s Bureau of Professional Standards as ordered. The Police Chief then placed Dykas…

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No Defamation Lawsuit For Statements Made In Disciplinary Investigation

Michael Fiore was a probationary police officer for the Town of Whitestown, New York. The employee of a tanning salon appeared at a meeting of the Whitestown Police Commission and told the Commissioners that while Fiore was off duty he visited the tanning salon and displayed a handgun. The tanning salon employee also told the Commissioners that before Fiore began working for the Department, the owner of the tanning…

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Officer Cannot Be Forced To Testify In Pre-Discipline Hearing

Leon Dykas was a police officer for the Worcester, Massachusetts Police Department. In 2008, Dykas was purported to have engaged in noncriminal misconduct involving his ex-wife in violation of a “Last Chance Settlement Agreement” into which he had entered with the Department. Dykas cooperated with the Department’s internal investigation and attended an investigatory interview at the Department’s Bureau of Professional Standards as ordered. The Police Chief then placed Dykas…

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No Defamation Lawsuit For Statements Made In Disciplinary Investigation

Michael Fiore was a probationary police officer for the Town of Whitestown, New York. The employee of a tanning salon appeared at a meeting of the Whitestown Police Commission and told the Commissioners that while Fiore was off duty he visited the tanning salon and displayed a handgun. The tanning salon employee also told the Commissioners that before Fiore began working for the Department, the owner of the tanning…

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Union, Not Firefighter, Has Right To Challenge Discipline In Arbitration

John Woods was a fire lieutenant for the Berwyn, Illinois Fire Department. A series of disputes arose between Woods and other members of the Department, and eventually the Department terminated Woods. Local 506 of the International Association of Fire Fighters voted not to challenge the termination in arbitration. The collective bargaining agreement between the Department and Local 506 allows employees the right to have disciplinary disputes not referred to…

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Union Has Power To Expel Member

A question that comes up from time to time is whether a public safety union has the right to discipline its own members. A recent decision from a New York trial court answers that question “yes,” provided that the union has followed its own bylaws in imposing the discipline. The case involved Raymond Montero, a member of the Police Association of the City of Yonkers. In January 2014, a…

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Officer’s Lie Not Big Enough For Termination

Maintaining the public’s trust is as synonymous with law enforcement as the slogan “to protect and serve.” A sustained allegation of untruthfulness has long been regarded a career killer for police officers. Recent years have seen a significant impact from Brady v. Maryland, the U.S. Supreme Court case that requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense in a criminal case. Citing the Brady rule, prosecutors have placed…

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No Second Try For Employer In Drug Case

Michael La Porta is a corrections lieutenant for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. When La Porta tested positive for methamphetamine on a drug test, he appealed the termination decision. At a hearings board, the Department told the administrative law judge it needed a continuance because its one witness, a doctor who would have testified about the test results, was unavailable. The judge telephoned the witness, who said…

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Arbitrator Can Set Clear And Convincing Burden Of Proof In Disciplinary Cases

When Officer Kevin Hammond was terminated by the Village of Posen, Illinois Police Department, his labor organization, the Illinois FOP Labor Council, challenged the termination in arbitration. An arbitrator overturned the termination, finding that the Village had not presented “clear and convincing evidence” that termination was warranted. Discussing the proper quantum of proof, the Arbitrator noted a “widespread recognition” that arbitration of just cause vests the arbitrator with discretion…

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Rank Matters In Fire Department

Felicia Scroggins is a firefighter for the City of Shreveport, Louisiana. On September 20, 2010, Scroggins and other Shreveport firefighters responded to a residential fire. Scroggins and Captain Reggie Taylor were part of Fire Engine Six. Fire Engine Four, which was run by Captain Jeff Cash, also responded. While attempting to put out the fire, Scroggins and Captain Cash became involved in an altercation. Scroggins told investigators that she…

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Kansas Court Limits Ability To Appeal Discipline To Civil Service Boards

When public safety officers want to challenge discipline, their ability to successfully do so is tied in part to the system of appeal. In parts of the country, particularly including many states in the South and Southwest, public safety officers are considered to be “at-will” employees. An at-will employee can be fired or otherwise disciplined for any reason or no reason at all, provided the employer’s actions do not…

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Participation In Arbitration Hearing Forecloses Later Challenge To Decision

Stacy Keylon worked as a dispatcher for the City of Dos Palos, California Police Department. When disciplinary charges were lodged against her for bringing a loaded firearm to work, Keylon participated in a pre-termination hearing. However, because Keylon was denied the opportunity to provide mitigating facts, this hearing did not comply with the due process requirements outlined by the California Supreme Court in a case known as Skelly v….

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Union Has Right To Conduct Parallel Disciplinary Investigation

When one of its members was the subject of a disciplinary investigation, the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association assigned Executive Board member Spike Unruh to represent the member. Unruh called three bargaining unit employees who were potential witnesses in the investigation. He told the employees he was representing the employee and asked what they had observed. Unruh spoke with Captain Karen DeWitt multiple times. During the initial discussion, DeWitt…

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For The Second Time, Court Orders Employer To Reinstate Officer

On July 17, 2009, an arbitrator found that the conduct of Worcester, Massachusetts Police Officer David Rawlston during an April 2007 off-duty incident did not supply just cause for the termination of his employment. The Arbitrator ordered Rawlston reinstated, and the City Manager of the City of Worcester appealed. In 2013, the Appeals Court for Massachusetts confirmed the arbitrator’s award and ordered Rawlston’s reinstatement. While the appeal was pending,…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Opinion In Sex Case

In 2009, a 24-year-old Alaska State Trooper (identified in the Court’s opinion only as “Trooper-Grievant” responded as backup to a domestic abuse call involving a victim identified only as “M.H.” The Grievant assisted in restraining M.H.’s husband, who was intoxicated and physically aggressive. When the primary trooper on the scene finished interviewing M.H., he asked the Grievant to go over a pamphlet on domestic violence and victim’s rights with…

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Discipline Not Negotiable For Denver Firefighters

Until 2013, there was no statewide law in Colorado calling for collective bargaining for firefighters. However, many years ago the City and County of Denver adopted a charter provision calling for bargaining with employees, and Local 858 of the International Association of Fire Fighters and Denver have had a long bargaining relationship. In 2010, the City unilaterally attempted to change the Charter’s existing disciplinary system governing firefighter conduct. Specifically,…

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Sergeant Can Be Disciplined For Working Without Permission

Sergeant George Foss works for the Township of Pennsauken, New Jersey Police Department. In 2010, the Township and Lodge No. 3 of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) entered into an agreement that, for the balance of the year, all covered officers would be furloughed for four days without pay. In August, all officers were notified of their scheduled furlough days and each, including Foss, acknowledged receipt of the…

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Mayor Should Have Recused Himself From Disciplinary Case

Brian Botsford was employed as a fire inspector by the Village of Endicott, New York Fire Department and was the president of its firefighters union. In May 2009, he was charged with multiple counts of misconduct after engaging in a verbal altercation with Stephen Hrustich, the Fire Chief, concerning Hrustich’s directive that all firefighters undergo a respiratory physical examination. The charges alleged that, upon arriving at the fire station…

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Due Process Requires Pre-Discipline Hearing Even If Appeal Rights Exist

A common misperception is that if an employee has access to a meaningful post-discipline appeal, the employer need not grant the employee a pre-disciplinary hearing. As the Village of Minerva Park, Ohio recently discovered in federal court litigation, the Supreme Court’s decision in Loudermill v. Cleveland Board of Education requires pre-disciplinary hearings in all cases where an employee has a property right to the job, even if a post-disciplinary…

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Conviction Of Misdemeanor Crime Of Domestic Violence Extinguishes Due Process Rights

William Arganda was employed as a peace officer by the City of Westminster, California. Following an internal investigation, Arganda was served with a Notice of Intent to Terminate on August 11, 2009, for multiple violations of Department policy involving unauthorized use of the law enforcement data system for personal business. After a pre-disciplinary hearing, the City terminated Arganda. Arganda made a timely request for a post-disciplinary appeal hearing, and…

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Demotion, Not Termination, Usually The Appropriate Punishment For Supervisory Failures

Shaun Sundahl worked for the Calexico, California Police Department as a sergeant. The City terminated Sundahl for three incidents: (1) Sundahl’s order that a subordinate officer use a taser to control a burglary suspect who was attempting to escape into Mexico by wading through a polluted river; (2) Sundahl’s handling of a high-tension confrontation with several citizens after police responded to a domestic violence call; and (3) Sundahl’s failure…

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Another Arbitrator Weighs In On Brady List And Discipline

Arbitrators seem increasingly skeptical that a police officer’s placement on a Brady list, in and of itself, should be a basis for discipline. The latest arbitrator to speak to the issue, Thomas Levak, has followed what is now the general trend that Brady list status cannot alone justify discipline. The case involved Officer Kevin Tuggle of the Elma, Washington Police Department. A local district attorney deemed Tuggle a “Brady…

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