Sunday, June 4, 2017

Law Enforcement: Untruthfulness, reinstatement and Brady issues

Post reinstatement Brady issues for law enforcement officers terminated for claimed dishonesty

Several recent cases involve this issue. A news report describes a lawsuit filed by Clay County MN Deputy Ryan Carey seeking to have his name removed from the County's Brady list. Deputy who Clay County once tried to fire sues in hopes of returning to patrol. Deputy Carey had been dismissed by the Clay County Sheriffs Department in July 2012. The notice of termination listed a number of alleged offenses, including one of "Lying while under Garrity/Tennessen Warning."

Arbitrator James A. Lundberg issued an award rejecting most of  the claimed violations. Concerning the charge that grievant had lied, the arbitrator concluded:

The statements made ...  about text messages were inaccurate but there is no reason to believe that [the] Deputy ... was lying to the investigators. ... The evidence of dishonesty regarding the text message is insufficient. The evidence supporting the claim that grievant lied about whether he apologized to Lt. Morrow for himself or the group and whether he mentioned alcohol as a factoring the conduct on June 10, 2012 is also insufficient. ... The employer did not have just cause to discipline the grievant for dishonesty.

Deputy Carey was reinstated but, according to the news report, he has been removed from patrol duty because his name remains on a Brady list, restricting his ability to testify in court. He has been assigned instead to a courthouse security position. Deputy Carey's suit seeks to have the Brady designation dropped and to have the county barred from refusing to consider him for other positions.

A similar restriction has been imposed by the  San Antonio police department on an officer reinstated following a grievance.  The officer was placed on "indefinite suspension" (i.e. dismissed) after it was discovered that his report of a drug stop was not entirely accurate. The officer's actions at the scene were captured on the Department's COBAN system. While conducting drug interdiction, the officer stopped a vehicle. He had previously observed several suspicious packages being received by the driver. The officer observed two bags of marijuana between the driver seat and the door. During a conversation with the passenger of the vehicle, the passenger admitted that she also had a bag of marijuana, and removed it from her bra. The officer elected to not arrest the passenger, and his report of the incident claimed that he saw three bags between the driver seat and the door. The driver was arrested. Subsequent review of the COBAN video by the prosecutor's office raised a question about the accuracy of the  report and the Department conducted an investigation. As a result of that investigation the officer was placed on indefinite suspension for being "untruthful in his written report concerning where the narcotics were discovered and who had possession of the narcotics."

The case was presented to Arbitrator Don B. Hays who concluded that:

Although obligated by oath and professional position to tell the truth, on this occasion appellant acted and/or spoke untruthfully on many of the subjects that  he knew, or reasonably should have known were of material interest to both the district attorney, the city's investigators and to us.

Nevertheless, Arbitrator Hays found sufficient mitigating factors, including an absence of any improper motive for grievant's actions, to warrant reinstatement. Arbitrator Hays' award can be found here.

According to news reports (SAPD officer accused of looking the other way on narcotics arrest gets termination overturned) the officer has been returned to the force but the District Attorney has placed the officer on a Brady disclosure list and the Department has indicated that his assignments going forward will be limited "to an administrative position that will not be affected by his past disciplinary record."

A third situation also involves a Brady designation and a post reinstatement law suit but it is unclear how much the Brady issues relates to the lawsuit. A King County, WA Deputy was dismissed for alleged dishonesty in continuing to receive supplemental pay for a position she no longer held. The County maintained that the Deputy knew or should have known that receipt of the supplemental pay was improper and failed to take steps have it stopped. Because the Sheriff viewed this as a matter of honesty the office notified the prosecutors office that the Deputy was subject to Brady list disclosure.

Arbitrator David Stiteler sustained the grievance in part. His findings on the dishonesty issue are somewhat ambiguous but he did find that in light of evidence of disparity treatment and management failures in connection with its own handling if the overpayment issue, discharge was too severe a penalty. He found just cause for discipline but not for discharge and ordered the grievant's reinstatement. His award can be found here. Subsequent to the award, grievant claimed that she was "shuffled" into several undesirable jobs before she retired prematurely. Ex-deputy sues, accuses King County sheriff of discriminating against female officers. She has sued the County alleging discrimination and retaliation.

Not waiting for reinstatement, the City of Pittsfield, MA has filed suit contesting the arbitrator ordered reinstatement of a police officer dismissed for, inter alia, untruthfulness and falsifying records in connection with a shoplifting arrest. Pittsfield fights arbiter's decision to reinstate fired police officer. Arbitrator Michael Stutz concluded (here) that the officer's "intentional inaccuracy violated [his] obligation to be absolutely truthful." Finding that three words in the officer's report were "untrue, intentionally misleading, and cause for discipline, but less than intentionally false" he concluded that there was just cause for discipline, but not for dismissal.  Arbitrator Stutz converted the termination to a three day suspension. The City's suit contends that the reinstatement is contrary to public policy by allowing an untruthful officer to remain employed with the department.

Similar issues are discussed in earlier posts:

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