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Police Chief’s Testimony In Defamation Case Constitutionally Protected

Robert Deutsch was the Police Chief for Laramie, Wyoming. In the summer of 2007, Deutsch used City petty cash to purchase a laptop computer for $1,433.11. The purchase violated City policy, but was apparently unknown to the public until a city council meeting in May 2008. At the meeting, Tim Hale, a private citizen, stated that there might have been a misappropriation of City petty cash by a department…

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The High Hurdle Of Showing That Employees Are Similarly Situated For Discrimination Purposes

Calvin Chism, an African-American, was employed for 16 years as a firefighter in Forrest City, Arkansas. Chism had been arrested several times for various charges during his tenure with the Department, including arrests for third degree battery in 1992, for assault in 1994, for aggravated assault in 2003, for two counts of third-degree battery in 2005, for two counts of domestic battery in 2005, and for harassing communications in…

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Compelled Internal Affairs Interview Not ‘Seizure’ For Fourth Amendment Purposes

Lawrence Goodine was a police officer for the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee. In early 2007, after complaints from several suspects, the Department’s Internal Affairs division began investigating Goodine. On March 7, 2007, Internal Affairs officers approached Goodine during roll call and ordered him to accompany them back to their offices. Goodine was escorted into a police vehicle and driven to another location. Internal Affairs officers then advised Goodine in…

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Officer’s Night Blindness Triggers ADA Claim

Ryan Lougheed was a patrol officer with the Village of Mundelein, Illinois. Lougheed’s field training officer (FTO) observed that during the night shift, Lougheed had trouble seeing the keys on the mobile data terminal’s keyboard in his vehicle as well as difficulty seeing numbers and letters on license plates. The FTO informed Lougheed that he may need glasses and suggested he get his eyes checked. An optometrist determined that…

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Police Commission’s Decision Does Not Insulate City From Police Chief’s Retaliatory Motive

Daniel Rasic was a police officer with the City of Northlake, Illinois. When he was fired, Rasic sued the City and Police Chief Dennis A. Koletsos, claiming his termination was in retaliation for the exercise of his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act. When a jury found in Rasic’s favor and awarded him damages of $174,000, the City and Koletsos filed a motion seeking to overturn the…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Award Requiring Disciplinary Retraining Of Sheriff, Aides

Jan Bartleson became a Yakima County, Washington sheriff’s deputy in 1995. She generally received positive work reviews until January 2001, when she received a three-day suspension for an on-duty automobile accident. The Yakima County Law Enforcement Officers Guild filed a grievance and the suspension was reduced to one day. Thereafter, Bartleson’s relationship with Sheriff Ken Irwin began to deteriorate. Bartleson exhausted her paid leave due to a combination of…

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Court Upholds Jury’s Verdict In Favor Of Deputy Sheriff

Norman Sallitt was a deputy sheriff for Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Sallitt sued the County, alleging that the Sheriff and his chief deputy retaliated against him for supporting the Sheriff’s political opponent in an election. As part of the retaliation, Sallitt asserted that he was suspended from his position for nine months, and lost opportunities to obtain higher-paying employment with the Pennsylvania State Police and the United States Marshal’s Service….

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‘Gross Error’ Required To Reverse Arbitrator’s Decision In Alaska

The termination of a four-year officer of the Airport Police and Fire Department of the Alaska Department of Transportation gave the Alaska Supreme Court the opportunity to revisit the standard used to evaluate arbitrators’ opinions. The termination was based on two events that occurred in May 2006 while the officer was working at the Alaska Law Enforcement Academy in Sitka, Alaska, and on the officer’s conduct during the subsequent…

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Termination For Officer’s AWOL Status Does Not Violate FMLA

Ellis Jenerette, a Montgomery County, Maryland corrections officer, has moderate persistent asthma, which he treats with daily medication. Jenerette’s asthma began in childhood but worsened after he moved to Maryland in 1989. From the beginning of his employment, Jenerette failed to maintain regular job attendance. At Jenerette’s first job performance evaluation in May 2002, his attendance was rated as “marginal.” In every subsequent performance evaluation from May 2003 until…

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Police Department Need Not Wait For Actual Personnel Problems To Order Fitness For Duty Evaluation

Oscar Brownfield began working as a police officer for the Yakima, Washington Police Department in November 1999. Approximately one year later, he suffered a closed head injury in an off-duty car accident. After recovering from symptoms including reduced self-awareness, Brownfield returned to full duty in July 2001. He received positive performance evaluations and was awarded several commendations over the next three years. In June 2004, Brownfield began having problems…

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Forfeiture Of Pension Too Harsh A Penalty For Firefighter’s Cocaine Use

Thomas McDougall was a 25-year member of the Fire Department of the City of New York. After a positive random drug test confirmed the presence of cocaine in McDougall’s system, a “Step-1” conference was held to review the charges for violation of regulations brought against McDougall by the Department. Following that conference, a deputy assistant chief of the Department recommended that, although he found McDougall guilty of all charges,…

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First Wife, Not Second, Receives Widow’s Benefits After Officer Dies

Brian Goode was hired as a police officer by the Borough of Keansburg, New Jersey in August 1987. At the time, he was married to his first wife, Tamara. Brian enrolled in the Police and Fire Retirement System and designated Tamara as his primary beneficiary for all death benefits. Brian and Tamara divorced in 1991, but he did not change the PFRS beneficiary designation. In 1992, Brian married Karen…

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Exception In Statute Of Limitations In Bill Of Rights Applies Even To Officers Who Are Not Criminally Charged

Matthias Huelsse was employed by Santa Clara County as a correctional officer. On August 8, 2005, Huelsse and another correctional officer, Officer Aguiniga, were involved in a physical altercation with an inmate in the main jail intake booking area. Huelsse witnessed the use of force by Officer Aguiniga and did not intervene. On the same day, the inmate made a complaint against Officers Aguiniga and Huelsse concerning this incident….

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Officer’s Use Of ‘Free Time’ Can Be Considered In Judging Compliance With Residency Rule

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin City Charter requires all City employees to live within the city limits. Some time prior to July 1, 2005, Milwaukee police officer Mark Vasquez and his wife made a “family decision” to move their daughters to Mukwonago, located 30 miles from Milwaukee. They sold their home in Milwaukee, took out a substantial loan, bought an empty lot, and designed a five-bedroom, three and one-half bathroom home…

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Deputy Not Required To Say ‘FMLA’ To Request FMLA Leave

Randall Miller was a deputy sheriff with the Boyle County, Kentucky Sheriff’s Department. In 2007, Miller began having severe headaches which caused him to miss work occasionally. Over the course of 2007 and 2008, Miller’s condition worsened and he began to experience what he described as blackout spells. On August 29, 2008, Miller invited Chief Deputy Jimmy Wilcher to his home and discussed for the first time his condition,…

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Statute Can Create Due Process Rights

Anthony Sawl, who has approximately 25 years of law enforcement experience, was hired as a patrol officer for the West Kittanning, Pennsylvania Police Department in October 2005, and was promoted to Lieutenant in January 2007. The Department employs fewer than three full-time officers. On September 29, 2007, a City Council member was involved in an incident at an event held at a local fire hall where the organizers had…

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Texas Civil Service Arbitrators Can Impose No Greater Than 15-Day Suspension

Kenneth Miller was a lieutenant with the Houston, Texas Police Department. In 2006, a coworker alleged that Miller had sexually harassed her. Following an investigation, the Department “indefinitely suspended” Miller. An “indefinite suspension” is the functional equivalent of a termination. Under Texas civil service law, a terminated employee has the option of appealing to an independent hearing examiner, who elsewhere might be termed an arbitrator. The Arbitrator who heard…

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Court Rejects Reliance On Handwriting Expert, Reinstates Assistant Chief

In June 2005, Sheriff David Woolfork of the Madison County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Department attended the National Sheriff’s Association conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Also attending the conference were Assistant Chief Dan Parr, Sergeant Lisa Balderrama, Sergeant Annette Martin, Chief Tommy Cunningham, and Cunningham’s wife. When Woolfork returned home from the conference, he noticed a postcard addressed to his wife. The postcard was postmarked in the last week of June 2005…

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Civil Service Hearing Meets Due Process Requirements

Matthew Skogen was a police officer with the City of Overland Park, Kansas. On March 30, 2008, Skogen was involved in an off-duty confrontation with his brother that a citizen reported to the Department. After investigating the matter, the Department terminated Skogen, who appealed to the Overland Park Civil Service Commission. When the Commission upheld his termination, Skogen filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that the Commission’s procedures…

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Hearsay Problems Doom Firefighter’s Drug Test

Edward Neal has served as a firefighter for 25 years with the City of Augusta, Georgia. Department employees are subject to random drug tests. When Neal was tested, a technician collected a urine specimen from Neal and sent the sample to an independent laboratory for testing. The written lab report indicated a result of “positive” for marijuana, and the result was sent from the lab to a physician employed…

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Difference In Tenure Can Justify Different Disciplinary Penalty

Benjamin Padilla became a California Highway Patrol officer in March 2003. On August 11, 2005, Padilla and a female officer were working the graveyard shift in the same patrol car. The officers held hands while they were transporting an arrestee, and Padilla failed to observe the arrestee when the arrestee was evaluated for drug use by a drug recognition expert, and instead sent his partner a text message saying,…

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Participation In An Internal Affairs Investigation Not Protected By First Amendment

The ramifications of Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), continue to be felt in free speech cases brought by public employees. In Garcetti, the Supreme Court held that where speech is made as part of an employee’s job, it is not protected by the First Amendment. The teachings of Garcetti allow an employer to retaliate against an employee for speech made in the course of the job without…

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Firefighter Loses MySpace Case, Job

Tiffany Marshall was hired by the City of Savannah, Georgia in September 2006 as a probationary firefighter. Prior to beginning her employment with the City, Marshall switched her account at www.myspace.com to “private” so that only designated “friends” could view photographs in the private section of her account. These photographs included a picture of firefighters from the Department, which she obtained without permission from the City’s website. Marshall labeled…

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Grievance Procedure Excludes Challenges To Terminations

The collective bargaining agreement between the City of Lowell, Massachusetts and the Lowell Police Association contains a grievance procedure that culminates with binding arbitration. Paragraph 4 in the grievance procedure states that “any matter which is subject to the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission, or any retirement board established by law, shall not be a subject of arbitration.” Paragraph 3 of the grievance procedure states that “grievances involving…

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Administrative Leave Improper, Termination Proper

A police officer for the Town of Hooksett, Massachusetts, who was just off of probation, was involved in an off-duty motor vehicle accident. The Town initially placed the officer on unpaid administrative leave and, after an investigation, terminated him. The officer’s labor organization, Local 633 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, challenged both the administrative leave and the termination in arbitration. An arbitrator found that the use of administrative…

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