On June 18, 2013, I represented Police Officer Jeremy Wilcox at a pre-disciplinary hearing in front of NOPD Deputy Superintendent Darryl Albert. The facts of the case are as follows:
- In 2004, prior to applying for employment with the New Orleans Police Department, Jeremy Wilcox was working as an air conditioning contractor.
- He an another individual were partners in this business.
- In 2004, Jeremy’s wrote a company check to an air conditioning supply house.
- Jeremy continued to do business with the same air conditioning supply house after the check was written.
- Jeremy never heard another thing about this check until 2011.
- In 2007, Jeremy was hired as a Police Recruit by the New Orleans Police Department.
- A background check was conducted as part of Jeremy’s employment application to the New Orleans Police Department.
- No arrest warrant was found in the course of Jeremy’s background investigation.
- In 2011, Jeremy learned of an arrest warrant issued out of St. Charles Parish for Issuing Worthless Checks.
- At that time, Jeremy had no idea what that warrant was about.
- Jeremy immediately contacted an attorney to investigate the matter in an attempt to get it resolved.
- In 2012, Jeremy was driving without a license plate on his car and was pulled over in St. John Parish where they found an arrest warrant from St. Charles Parish for Issuing Worthless Checks.
- Jeremy was arrested and taken to St. Charles Parish. At that time, Jeremy made payment to the air conditioning supplier and the charges against him were dropped.
These are undisputed facts.
In its press release on the matter, the NOPD indicated that Jeremy was “cited for a second Moral Conduct violation because he intentionally removed the license plate from his truck in hopes that he wouldn’t get stopped.” There is no evidence to support this contention.
During the course of the pre-disciplinary hearing, Jeremy took full responsibility for driving without a license plate on his car. The car was properly registered and had a valid license plate, it simply was not on the bumper of his car. Deputy Supt. Albert asked Jeremy why he did not have the license plate on the bumper of his car. Jeremy responded honestly that he removed the license plate from the bumper of his car during Mardi Gras, 2012. He stated that parking around the 2nd District Station was extremely difficult during Mardi Gras and he was hoping not to get a parking ticket when he reported to work. Once it was off for a couple of weeks, he simply forgot to put it back on. This explanation was readily accepted by Dep. Supt. Albert, formerly the Commander of the 2nd District. Jeremy did not seek to justify his removal of the license plate. He took responsibility for removal of the license plate. Jeremy was given a four-day suspension for removing his license plate.
As for the check, Jeremy never denied issuing the check that he was presented with in 2012 which was stamped NSF. It should be noted that the check was not stamped Account Closed or anything else that would insinuate some type of fraudulent behavior.
At the pre-disciplinary hearing, Dep. Supt. Albert presented Jeremy with a notice from the air conditioning supplier regarding the NSF check and a certified mail receipt for that letter. Jeremy informed Dep. Supt. that he had NEVER seen that letter before June 18, 2013.
In fact, the certified mail receipt for that letter was clearly marked “RETURN TO SENDER.” There was no signature on the line for the recipient. In short, Jeremy’s assertion that he had never seen that letter before was supported by the evidence presented to him.
Supt. Ronal Serpas is quoted in the press release as saying “In this case, it’s simple. We can’t have a police officer enforcing the law on a daily basis who knowingly broke the law himself, and took measures to hide it.”
This is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. Jeremy Wilcox unknowingly issued an NSF check three years before he was hired by the New Orleans Police Department. His background investigation conducted when he was hired by the New Orleans Police Department did not reveal any arrest warrant for an NSF check. When he learned of the problem, seven years later, he took affirmative action to fix the problem by hiring an attorney. Jeremy Wilcox did not take any measures to hide the NSF check. There is simply no evidence to support any conclusion to the contrary. Jeremy Wilcox was fired for writing an NSF check.
Jeremy Wilcox was an outstanding employee. This is the only complaint ever made against Jeremy Wilcox. Jeremy has been Officer of the Month and Officer of the Quarter in the 2nd District.
I am not going to go on with legal arguments like whether or not Jeremy is subject to the rules of the NOPD before he was hired by the NOPD or whether the obligation created by writing a company check that was returned NSF is the obligation of the company or the individual, but I do know that a lot of us have unfortunately written NSF checks.
I would like to remind whoever is responsible for drafting press releases that NOPD Chapter 52.1 requires all employees to be honest in all of their communications, written, verbal, or electronic. This press release was not accurate and does not honestly represent the facts of the case. Supt. Serpas was quoted as saying “The people of New Orleans expect more from us.” I suspect that the people of New Orleans would forgive Jeremy Wilcox for writing a single NSF check 9 years ago. I think that the people of New Orleans would be much more interested in being misled by the press release on this matter.