NOPD Police Officer IV Promotions

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The New Orleans Police Department should be making Police Officer IV promotions soon. Inevitably, there will be some people who are passed over for this promotion.  The most common reason for someone to be passed over is a pending DI-1 investigation.  Other reasons one might be passed over include recent disciplinary actions, not having enough time to be included on the register (6 years), excessive undocumented sick days, and simple mistakes or oversight on behalf of the NOPD.

DI-1’s

A DI-1 is considered pending from the date the DI-1 is initiated.  In the case of a not sustained, unfounded, or exonerated DI-1, the DI-1 is no longer pending when the not sustained, unfounded, or exonerated disposition has been approved up the chain of command.  If the DI-1 is sustained the DI-1 is no longer pending when the Superintendent of Police signs of on the disciplinary letter.

That means that when the investigator gives you a “Notice to Accused Law Enforcement Officer Under Investigation of a Pre-Disciplinary Hearing or a Determination of an Unfounded or Unsustained Complaint” form, the DI-1 is still pending.  If the recommended disposition is not sustained, exonerated, or unfounded, then it will be finalized when it is approved up the chain of command.  It should be noted that the recommended disposition can also be changed to sustained on its way up the chain of command.

If the recommended disposition is sustained, then you will be later issued a Notice of Disciplinary Hearing.  A disciplinary hearing will actually follow that notice and you will be informed of a recommended penalty.  The DI-1 is still pending at that point.  The DI-1 will remain pending while the recommended penalty goes up the chain of command and is not final until signed off on by the appointing authority.  In the NOPD, the appointing authority is the Superintendent of Police.

How do you know when all that happens?  Well, in the case of sustained violations, you know for sure when you are told to go to PIB to sign for a disciplinary letter.  This is a letter that is on NOPD departmental letterhead (as opposed to a 105).  If the case is not sustained, exonerated, or unfounded, you will not be notified.  The best way to know the status of any pending DI-1 is to go to PIB and request a copy of your short form.  If you need assistance interpreting the DI-1, feel free to give me a call.

PRIOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Current policy dictates that an officer is ineligible for promotion if there has been a sustained disciplinary infraction that included a penalty greater than Letter of Reprimand for a period of one year from the date of the infraction.  So, if you had a sustained disciplinary investigation and the penalty for that violation included any suspension days, you are ineligible to be promoted for a period of time.  Again, your short form contains the relevant information to be considered.

For example, if an officer was the subject of a disciplinary investigation that was initiated on 10/1/13 which was sustained and the officer was suspended for one day, then that officer would not be eligible for promotion until 10/1/14.  However, you do become eligible for promotion once that period has passed.  If an officer is disciplined with a Letter of Reprimand, that officer’s eligibility to be promoted is not effected.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS

If you do not meet the minimum qualification for promotion, you will not be placed on the register by Civil Service.  For example, if you did not have six (6) years when P/O IV promotions are made, you will not be on the promotional register.  However, it is possible to be added to the register if an officer no longer lacks one of the minimum qualifications such as the length of service requirement.  Let us know if you run into that problem.

EXCESSIVE SICK LEAVE

Officers are allowed eight (8) undocumented sick leave days per calendar year.  If you exceed eight (8) undocumented sick leave days in a calendar year, you will be deemed ineligible for promotion.  As a brief recap, every sick leave usage starts out undocumented.  If you turn in an NOPD Form 50 when you return to work, the sick leave usage is changed to documented.  If you have this particular problem, feel free to call.

MISTAKES

Everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes folks are inadvertently passed over for a myriad of reasons.  If you are passed over and you don’t have any of the issues detailed above, give us a call and we will be happy to look into it.  The NOPD has committed to promoting any mistakenly passed over individuals with back pay.  Sometimes this has been an uphill battle, but Chief Landry and her staff have been very helpful.

In addition to P/O IV promotions being on the horizon, we anticipate that there will be more Police Sergeants promoted off of the current register and Civil Service intends to give a Police Lieutenant test later this year (October-ish).  There has also been an increase in the number of DI-1 investigations largely as a result of the consent decree.

Everyone should make a habit of requesting a copy of his or her short form on a regular basis to make sure they know the status of their disciplinary file.  You can do this by appearing at PIB and completing a request that is available at the front desk.

The Fraternal Order of Police is dedicated to assisting officers however we can.  However, the only way we know about these promotional problems is if the officer experiencing problems tells us.  In the past, I have spoken with many P/O II, P/O III, and Sergeant applicants and we have been able to help most of them.  We can track the one year waiting period or check on the status of pending items.  We can’t do any of that if we don’t know of the problem.

FOP CCL2

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NOPD Recruitment and Retention

Thanks to @johnsimerman and @gordonrussell1 at @theadvocateno for an insightfully report. This is a complicated issue. The DOJ is willing to sacrifice officer safety and NOPD’s ability to adequately serve the public based on their belief that the consent decree will eventually lead to a more professional department which will not be struggling to find officers. In the meantime, we who actually live in New Orleans, as opposed to the DOJ folks who live in Washington D.C., can see that officers are leaving at a higher rate than usual and the NOPD struggles to compete with other agencies, as referenced in this article. NOPD has lost more than 70 officers this year already. This may be an average number, but the percentage of officers leaving is steadily increasing due to a lack of hiring. It is worth noting that the 1,141 officers cited in the article includes the 28 recruits currently in the Academy.

NOPD rank and file are not responsible for the expense associated with the consent decree or the policies of the NOPD administration which led to the consent decree. They are certainly not responsible for anything remotely connected to the OPSO consent decree.

The City wants to make the NOPD and the rest of New Orleans government a “Great Place to Work.” Here are some ideas for a starting point:

1. Raise salaries.
2. Actively pursue removal of OPSE from the consent decree. OPSE is a failed DOJ experiment which is destined to cost the tax payers of New Orleans a considerable amount of money. It is hard to calculate what this has cost the NOPD in terms of officers or cost the officers in terms of pay they rely on to feed their families.
3. Stop taking from officers. Salaries have not been raised or lowered, but health insurance cost has risen 40% in the last several years. Employee pension contributions have increased. This results in a decrease in net pay for officers.
4. Uniform allowances have been replaced with vouchers. This $500/year benefit can no longer be used to buy non-uniform equipment or services. Detectives need coats and ties. Clothes need to be dry cleaned and boots need to be shined.
5. Stop trying to minimize civil service protections. The City claims its civil service reforms do not remove any civil service protections. That is patently false. The reforms maintain the ability to appeal disciplinary actions, but would destroy the protections provided by a competitive merit-based system of employment with regard to hiring and promotions.

It is time for the City to take action. These officers put their lives on the line every day. It becomes more and more difficult to justify that risk when the risk is amplified every time another officer leaves the department. It is difficult to justify continuing taking that risk when checks continue to dwindle. It is difficult to continue taking that risk when you need to constantly check your pockets for spindly finger at the end of the long arm of the City (or the DOJ).

The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 90% of all active NOPD officers, is committed to fighting for pay, benefits, working conditions, and safety of NOPD officers. Furthermore, what benefits NOPD officers benefits the residents and visitors to the City of New Orleans. It is time for the City of New Orleans to take action.

NOPD Reinstatements

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Much has been made about the number of officers resigning or retiring from the New Orleans Police Department lately.  On average, one NOPD officer resigns or retires every three days.  Manpower at the NOPD is at historic lows with current commissioned strength somewhere right above 1,120.  This is not meant to be an article discussing manpower, so I do not intend to get into the number of officers on limited duty or out injured or sick for an extended period of time.  There is a critical shortage of manpower that jeopardizes officer safety and NOPD’s ability to respond adequately to the public’s needs. At the rate NOPD is hiring, it will take a very long time to get up to the 1,575 officers that Superintendent Serpas has said he needs.

That being said, I am regularly contacted by officers who have left voluntarily indicating their desire to return to the NOPD.  It is not unusual for officers who have left to decide that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.  Certainly that is not true of every officer who leaves, but officers express their desire to return on a regular basis.

The process of being reinstated has been a little confounding at times.  Civil Service Rule VI, Section 4.8 describes how reinstatement works:

(a) Any regular or probationary employee who has resigned from a position or has been terminated for reasons other than inefficiency, delinquency, or misconduct and has requested reinstatement to the same department and to any classification previously occupied, may, upon the request of the appointing authority and with the prior approval of the Personnel Director, based upon the record of the employee for satisfactory service, be reinstated to that position or any position where permanent status was previously held, within a period of three (3) years from the date of separation if a vacancy exists therein and upon the completion of a satisfactory medical examination if the separation was for medical reasons.

(b) However, if more than three years have elapsed, a former regular employee may apply for reinstatement only to the same department in the same classification as previously occupied, and subject to the following conditions:

  1. The employee returns with probationary status and must successfully complete a new working test period.
  2. The minimum qualifications and job requirements for the classification have remained essentially the same.  However, if the minimum qualifications and job requirements have been revised, then the former employee must meet the current criteria.
  3. In the event the former employee’s personnel files are no longer in existence, it shall be the individual’s responsibility to provide documentation to the Personnel Director, that he or she successfully completed the examination process and attained permanent status in the classification in question, and subsequently left the city service under honorable conditions.

In short, an employee who has left voluntarily can return within three (3) years if the appointing authority requests the reinstatement from the Personnel Director.  In the case of the NOPD, that means that the Superintendent of Police would have to request the reinstatement of the officer to Civil Service and the Personnel Director at Civil Service must approve.

Previously, that process was convoluted.  Officers seeking reinstatement would often not know who to ask or would make general inquiries and receive no response.

As more of these reinstatement requests came in, it became evident that a better system needed to be in place.  In response to this, the Superintendent has implemented the following system for reinstatement requests:

The officer seeking reinstatement can either seek the assistance of an organization such as the FOP or they can undertake the process on their own.  If the officer has any questions about how to make the request or how to explain their desire to return or the circumstances of their departure, it may be better to seek the assistance of counsel.  The FOP provides such assistance to its members (and often, former members).

The officer seeking reinstatement (or representative) should send a correspondence to the Superintendent of Police expressing the desire to be reinstated.  That correspondence can be in the form of a letter addressed to the Superintendent at NOPD Headquarters (715 S. Broad St., NOLA 70119) or an email to Superintendent Serpas (rwserpas@nola.gov).

Once the Superintendent has received the request, he will arrange a meeting during the next departmental COMSTAT.  At that meeting, the Superintendent or his representative (read other chief(s)) will meet with the officer to discuss the officer’s desire to return and circumstances of departure.  Following that meeting, the Superintendent will make a decision regarding that officer’s reinstatement or the Superintendent’s representative(s) will make a recommendation to the Chief regarding the officer’s reinstatement.

Once the Superintendent has had an opportunity to review the recommendation and any initial information, the officer’s reinstatement will be forwarded to the Management Services Bureau (Recruitment) for a review board appearance and processing (assuming the decision is ultimately favorable).

This new process was recently used and a meeting was set up for the officer immediately. That meeting has not taken place yet.  So, it remains to be seen exactly how efficient this new system will be for processing reinstatements.  However, it is a step forward compared to the old system (or lack thereof).

Hopefully, officers seeking reinstatement will find the process to be a little more efficient than it was previously.  As usual, I am available to assist officers who would like to be reinstated, as are the other FOP attorneys.  If there are any questions or comments, please feel free to send them.

This could easily have to be updated. Stay tuned.

FOP CCL2

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Workers Comp v. Injured on Duty (IOD)

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If you are injured in the course and scope of your employment, you are entitled to receive workers compensation benefits.  In return for being entitled to these benefits, an injured worker is barred from suing his or her employer for a work related injury in most cases.  The benefits include such things as weekly wages, medical bills, and mileage to and from medical appointments.  Every course and scope injury is a workers’ compensation injury regardless of the circumstances.

The idea of an Injured on Duty (IOD) injury exists in the Civil Service Commission Rules for the City of New Orleans.  It may or may not exist in the rules of other civil service boards or commissions.

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NOPD Disciplinary Investigations Update (Updated)

As most officers are aware, the NOPD has interpreted the consent decree as requiring they investigate absolutely every allegation, no matter what it is.  I have seen formal disciplinary investigations of officers alleged to have “smirked,” “sighed loudly,” and “made go-golly eyes.”

Most of these investigations are receiving the appropriate disposition at the conclusion of the investigation.  However, one thing that I have noticed is that officers are being sustained for other, minor, administrative violations.

For example, one common sustained violation is for failing to complete an FIC card.  Officers should be aware that they are required to complete FIC entries on individuals they come into contact with regardless of whether that person is arrested, cited, or merely interviewed.  In the past, officers were not required to complete FIC’s for individuals who were arrested or cited.  Why complete an FIC when the information is being documented in-depth in an incident report?  The short answer is that the information, particularly arrested subjects versus not arrested subjects has to be maintained separately.  In any event, the current rule requires an FIC whether an incident report is completed or not.  Just the other day, I was involved with an investigation where an officer, who was not initially accused of anything, was sustained for failing to complete an FIC.

Next is detail forms and the detail database.  As we are all well aware, the consent decree has made a total mess of the paid detail system.  Who really knows if we are coming or going with anything regarding details?  It is a disaster.  The only upside is that hopefully this disaster will lead to pay raises (we’re working on it).  In any event, if you are working a paid detail that is not being managed by OPSE, you still need to have an NOPD Paid Detail Authorization form in for that detail.  Even if you are working an OPSE detail, you still need to call the dispatcher and get an item number, etc., when you get to the detail and you still need to enter that item number and other information into the detail self-reporting database the next time you are at work.  If there is a complaint regarding a detail, no matter what the complaint is, you can rest assured that PIB is going to check the detail authorization and the database in the course of the investigation.

Finally, I would like to point out FOB Policy 39.  FOB Policy 39 requires platoon sergeants to monitor how long calls have been holding and make call backs to complainants on any call holding more than 60 minutes.  I have seen a marked increase in the number of investigations alleging violations of FOB Policy 39.  I understand that this is a tall order when there is one sergeant, one desk officer, and two officers on the street.  However, when the complaint comes in that someone is upset they had to wait 3 or more hours for the police to arrive, you can rest assured that will be one of the first things PIB checks.  Sergeants have the option of asking the desk officer to make the call backs, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the sergeant to monitor the length of times calls are holding. That being said, I would keep an eye out for potential revisions to that policy that may require a more active part on behalf of the desk officer.  As it stands today, it is the sergeants responsibility.  Make sure that everything that is done in this regard is relayed to the dispatcher so that it is included on the complaint history for that item and is recorded on the dispatch channel.

UPDATE:  I would also like to mention MVU’s.  Just because you have those pretty body cameras does not mean that you do not have to worry about the in-car dash cams.  If you have an MVU that does not work for whatever reason, or you were never issued a USB key, please note that on your Trip Sheet every time.  It may not suffice to note it once.  When you get in a car, make sure to check the functionality of the dash cam every time.  If it is full, note it on your Trip Sheet.  If the front camera is missing, that does not mean that the cameras do not work.  Note it on your Trip Sheet.  Notify your supervisor.  Do it every day.  If the camera works, use it as described in the policy.  This is another thing that investigators routinely check in the course of a DI-1 investigation.

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