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Chief’s Porn Comments Result In Loss Of His Job

The opinion of the Montana Supreme Court in a case involving Colstrip Police Chief Larry Reinlasoder starts off with a bang: “‘You ain’t getting s––– for Christmas! I’ve just examined your computer and it’s full of porn, you f pervert,’ read a captioned picture of Santa Claus attached to a December 2007 office email from Reinlasoder, one of many instances of misconduct cited by Colstrip when it discharged Reinlasoder…

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Arbitrator Overturns Chief’s Termination

Matthew Cummings was the Chief of Police for the City of Newton, Massachusetts. Allegations of misconduct came to the attention of the Mayor, who retained an outside contractor to undertake an investigation. When it received his report, the City filed five charges of conduct unbecoming a police chief. At a pre-disciplinary hearing, Cummings called three witnesses, offered no exhibits, and did not testify. The hearing officer found that Cummings…

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Third Termination Of Corrections Officer Sticks

Shania Miller was a correctional officer at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic & Classification Center. As a requirement of her employment, she held a certification from the Correctional Training Commission. In 2010, Warden Solomon Hejirka of the Center terminated Miller’s employment after he learned that Miller was engaged in a sexual relationship with an inmate. With the termination came the loss of her corrections certificate. Miller challenged her termination, and…

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Legal Defense Plan Not Obliged To Defend Officer

Sammy Cuevas was hired as an officer with the Campbell, California Police Department in April 2008. In 2009, he was the subject of an internal investigation into his off-duty associations with Oscar Padilla and Joseph Aguilera, individuals believed to be gang members and drug dealers. Cuevas was suspended for 36 hours without pay and he was given a direct order by Police Chief Greg Finch to have no association…

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Polygraph Evidence Properly Excluded In Officer’s Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

Robert Piel worked for the Federal Way, Washington Police Department for nearly 11 years, as an officer and then as a lieutenant. In May 2006, Chief Anne Kirkpatrick terminated Piel for misconduct when Piel directed a subordinate officer to release a firefighter detained on suspicion of drunk driving. Piel successfully grieved his termination through arbitration. He contended the Department lacked just cause to terminate him and that his termination…

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Disparate Treatment May Be Defense To Dishonesty Termination

The Town of West Bridgewater, Massachusetts terminated Daniel Desmond from the position of police officer for his “continued pattern of lying/perjury and conduct unbecoming a police officer.” The charges against him arose out of his relationship with a married woman referred to as Mrs. A. Ultimately, Mrs. A. completed an application for a restraining order against her husband. Desmond called the Brockton Police Department to obtain information about who…

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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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Firefighter Was Not Forced To Resign

Joe Colon was a firefighter with the City of Lorain, Ohio. When confronted with allegations of sick leave abuse that could be considered what Ohio’s criminal laws call “theft in office,” Colon met with representatives from Local 267 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Colon then offered to resign his employment with the Department. The City gave Colon time to think about the decision and to consult an…

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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 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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Deputy Sheriff Can Be Fired For Conduct While On Unpaid Leave

Thomas Negron was a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for eight years when he became embroiled in a contentious divorce. As a result of the divorce proceedings, Negron began experiencing stress, anxiety attacks, and other physical symptoms that caused him to miss work. Negron’s continuing anxiety issues eventually caused him to take a paid medical leave of absence, during which he was required to report to…

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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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Officers Can Win Termination Arbitration And Lose Certification

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority fired officers Mark Spencer and Sherman Benton. Spencer was terminated for excessive force and untruthfulness; Benton was fired for an off-duty domestic dispute and untruthfulness. The officers’ labor organization, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), challenged the terminations in arbitration. A Board of Arbitration overturned both discharges, finding that although the Authority had legitimate grounds for disciplining the officers, that lengthy suspension, not…

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Sergeant Loses Job Over Facebook ‘Rant’

Susan Graziosi was a sergeant for the Greenville, Mississippi Police Department with over 25 years of service. In 2012, several officers expressed to the Police Chief a desire to attend the funeral of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty in Pearl, Mississippi. Despite the City Council’s decision to disallow the use of patrol cars for personal use under the “take-home” program due to budget…

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Dispatcher Terminated Over False Claims Against Police Officer

In August 2011, Valinda Carter, a dispatcher for the Columbia County, Florida Sheriff’s Department, was at home when she received a phone call from her brother. Columbia County Deputy Sheriff Joshua Latimer had just stopped Carter’s brother for a traffic violation. The apparent purpose of the brother’s call was to maintain an “open line” so that Carter could hear what was happening during the traffic stop. At some point,…

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Suicide Attempt Can Be Just Cause For Discharge

Cletus Morton was a probation and parole officer for the Missouri Department of Corrections. On the evening of October 8, 2010, Morton was watching his seven-year-old daughter when he consumed between one-half and three-quarters of a 750 ML bottle of vodka. Morton’s behavior around his daughter caused her to call her mother, Morton’s ex-wife, and ask to be picked up because she did not want to stay with Morton….

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Court Overturns Arbitrator’s Decision In Termination Case

Kankakee County, Illinois and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Labor Council are parties to a collective bargaining agreement covering the County’s corrections officers. When the County terminated Corrections Officer Nicholas Brais, the FOP challenged the termination in arbitration. The case stemmed from an incident on September 22, 2010, when members of the County’s Major Crimes Task Force learned that David Caban, a long-time career criminal with multiple felony…

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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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The Importance Of Intent In Termination Cases

Andrea Yvette Allen was a Correctional Probation Senior Supervisor for the Florida Department of Corrections. She served as an office manager and had 27 years of service. In order to develop better relationships with the officers she supervised and become a more valuable employee, Allen decided to take a gun class offered by the Department. Her husband purchased a Glock 9 mm for her at Walmart, also buying a…

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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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The High Bar For Constructive Termination

Occasionally, employees who resign their jobs will claim that they were “constructively terminated.” The standard for a constructive termination claim is a high one. In the words of the Court considering the constructive termination claim of Starke County, Indiana deputy sheriff Donald Ferguson, “to prevail on a claim of constructive discharge, a plaintiff must demonstrate a work environment that is even more egregious than that needed for a hostile…

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Court Upholds Verdict For Firefighter In ‘Arson’ Case

Steven King was a paid firefighter for the Berryhill, Oklahoma Fire Protection District. The Fire Chief wanted to remove structures from property he owned and had received an estimate for the demolition of structures on his property in the amount of $10,000. Rather than paying to have the structures demolished, the Chief began planning a live burn training exercise on the property even though gasoline tank batteries were located…

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Termination For On-Duty Drinking ‘Shocks Sense Of Fairness’

Public safety disciplinary cases appealed by employees into New York’s court system have very tough sledding. Under New York Law, disciplinary penalties can only be overturned if the employee can show that the “measure of punishment or discipline imposed is so disproportionate to the offense, in the light of all the circumstances, as to be shocking to one’s sense of fairness.” Given this highly deferential standard, it was surprising…

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Affair With Chief’s Wife A Terminable Offense

William Bowker was a police officer with the City of Fort Madison, Iowa. For approximately 16 months, he was assigned to a county narcotics task force. He was removed for not being an effective member and returned to his regular duties with the Fort Madison Police Department. Shortly thereafter, Bowker began a romantic relationship with a reserve officer who was also the wife of the Fort Madison Police Chief….

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One Council Member’s Improper Motive Does Not Void Entire Council’s Termination Decision

Laura Watson was a police officer for the Borough of Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. Michael Matis was president and William Perry, Jr. was vice-president of the Borough’s Council, which makes decisions regarding disciplining or terminating Borough police officers. Such decisions require a majority vote of the Council members present. In May 2008, Watson brought charges against William Perry, Sr., father of Perry, Jr., for filing false reports. Watson provided sworn testimony…

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