Sunday, May 10, 2015

Quick Hits - Law Enforcement

Officer's growing large amount of marijuana doesn't justify immediate dismissal

Grievant was employed as a police officer for the City of Buffalo. He was the subject of criminal and internal affairs investigations which revealed that he was growing large amounts of marijuana in a warehouse. He had visited the area of the warehouse on several occasions in his police vehicle. When confronted with the results of the investigations, the officer acknowledged that he had been participating in the marijuana grow operation since before he joined the Department. The Police Commissioner summarily terminated his employment. The Buffalo PBA pursued a grievance claiming that the City had failed to provide grievant with the contractual right to an informal conference and a formal hearing before terminating his employment. Arbitrator Jeffrey Selchick sustained the grievance, noting "the [contract] language brooks no exception based on the Commissioner's perception, no matter how reasonable and well founded, that the evidence of an officer's wrongdoing is overwhelming and termination is fully justified." The Arbitrator ordered the City to pay grievant for lost pay until the date of his guilty plea, less a thirty day unpaid suspension the City would have been contractually able to impose while it investigated.

 WIVB.com reports on the case, City to pay nearly $220k to dirty cop behind bars, and links to Arbitrator Selchick's award here.

Public policy requires a determination of likelihood grievant will re-offend before reinstatement award can be upheld

An earlier post, Arbitrator overturns termination despite finding "unnecessary, unjustified, unreasonable" use of force because of due process considerations, noted an award reinstating a police officer who had been accused of using excessive force and of being less than candid with the Department. Although finding both of these allegations supported by the evidence, the Arbitrator found the delay in the Department's investigation and the failure of superior officers with knowledge of the incident to take timely action weighed against termination. Accordingly he ordered the grievant's reinstatement without back pay. The City sought to vacate the award, and the Circuit Court for Cook County granted the City's request, finding the award contrary to public policy. The Union appealed, and the Illinois Appellate Court has now reversed that decision and sent the dispute back to the arbitrator for him to make a specific finding on the likelihood that grievant would engage in similar conduct if reinstated. Clarification of the award is necessary, according to the Court, to allow it to "fully assess [the award's] public policy implications." The Court's opinion can be found here.

Sheriff's Deputy leaving official vehicle in the dark on side of highway and making false statement during investigation just cause for dismissal

Arbitrator James R. Cox has upheld the termination of a Sheriff's Deputy for parking his official vehicle at least partly in the traffic lanes, turning the lights off and then "intentionally making false and inaccurate reports of the circumstances to investigating officers." Pantagraph.com reports on the case, Ex-deputy's firing upheld by arbitrator, and links to the award of Arbitrator Cox here.

Dismissal of officer for discharging weapon while off duty upheld

The Connecticut State Board of Mediation and Arbitration has denied a grievance filed on behalf of a New Haven officer. Grievant was one of three off duty officers at a restaurant when the New Haven PD received a report of shots being fired in the area. Several spent shell were found in the area and it was determined that 5 of the 6 shells had come from grievant's weapon. The Union maintained that the evidence was insufficient to support a termination, or, alternatively, that lenience should be shown and a lengthy suspension be imposed. The panel unanimously rejected these positions noting "This incident was not a minor issue such as firing off a firearm in the woods by teenagers. This was an incident where a mature police officer fired off at least five rounds in the middle of a congested city where someone could have been wounded or killed by an off duty police officer sworn to uphold the law against such activity."

The panel's decision can be found here


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