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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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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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