Sunday, December 8, 2013

Recent Developments- Law Enforcement

Arbitrator upholds termination of police officer for off duty discharge of weapon and lying

Arbitrator Andrea Mitau Kircher has upheld the termination of a St. Paul MN police officer who had been accused of firing a number of shots from his weapon into a fire pit while off duty and admittedly inebriated. During the investigation of the incident he also admittedly falsely told investigators that he was shooting blanks. While the officer subsequently admitted the falsification, Arbitrator Kircher concluded that the City had established just cause for the termination despite the absence of any previous discipline. She noted "police officers are held to a high standard of conduct, even off-duty. By discharging 10 rounds of live ammunition in his backyard and lying about it to his investigating superiors, the Grievant committed a violation of criminal law, created a potentially dangerous situation, and adversely affected his reputation for honesty and the public image he was sworn to uphold". Arbitrator Kircher's award can be found here.

Court overturns arbitrator, finds reinstatement contrary to public policy

According to news reports, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge has set aside the award of Arbitrator Arnold Marrow reinstating a former Swansea, MA police officer. The officer had been dismissed for a variety of alleged infractions, including separate incidents of driving under the influence of a narcotic, leaving the scene of an accident and obstructing a criminal investigation. The Arbitrator concluded the penalty was more severe than the ninety day suspension given another officer for driving under the influence and as a result reduced the termination to a ninety day suspension. In overturning the award, the Judge concluded "It is impossible for the court to comprehend a rational basis for the arbitrator's decision to reduce [Grievant's] termination to a mere suspension" and found anything other than termination to be contrary to public policy. The Herald News and South Coast Today report on the decision here and here.

Prevailing in arbitration and the "Laurie List"

Two recent articles discuss attempts by police officers who prevailed in arbitration to have their names removed from New Hampshire's "Laurie list", a list maintained to enable authorities to turn over to defense counsel information on police with potential credibility issues. The officers involved in the cases discussed prevailed in arbitration, with arbitrators concluding that the allegations against them were unsupported, but their names nevertheless remained on the list. reports Officer insists his credibility not an issue. The Union Leader reports Judge rules to keep officers on Laurie list.

Arbitrator rejects grievance on Sergeant's pay

Arbitrator Margaret Nancy Johnson has denied a grievance filed by FOP against the City of Chillicothe, OH. The grievance involved a dispute concerning the proper interpretation of a newly negotiated provision of the cba concerning compensation of police sergeants. In essence, the dispute turned on whether advancement to the next step on the pay schedule for a sergeant would be determined by their start date with the Department or the date of their promotion to sergeant. Rejecting the claim of the FOP that the language of the cba was unambiguous, the Arbitrator relied on bargaining history, interpretation of other provisions of the agreement, and "principles of contract interpretation" to conclude that the relevant date was the date of the officer's promotion to the rank of sergeant. The Chillicothe Gazette reports on the dispute here, and links to the award here.

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