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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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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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