Unclassified Positions and Reform in the #NOPD

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Recently, I wrote about the New Orleans Police Department’s request to the New Orleans Civil Service Commission for the creation of 16 new unclassified jobs in the NOPD.  The NOPD made its pitch at the February 20, 2017 meeting of the Civil Service Commission and it received some media attention here and here.  The Civil Service department opposed the creation of these unclassified positions, referring to the request as “unprecedented.”  After hearing from the NOPD, myself, on behalf of the FOP, Capt. Mike Glasser, PANO, Lt. Keith Joseph, BOP, and a few others, the Civil Service Commission took no action to allow the Civil Service Department to complete its work and put the matter on the agenda for the March meeting (March 20 if anyone wants to accompany me on behalf of the FOP).

I do not intend to re-post my argument against the creation of the unclassified positions, but for those who have not had the chance to read this article or my letter to the Civil Service Commission in this regard, the Civil Service Rules, which have the force and effect of law, require that in order for a position to be considered unclassified, the job’s responsibilities are not appropriate for anyone in the classified service and should not be performed by anyone in the classified service.  Furthermore, someone serving in an unclassified position must have policy-making authority which is not subject to further review or modification.  Finally, the Civil Service Commission is required to audit the position regularly to make sure that it is still not fit for the classified service.  As both Superintendent Harrison and myself made a point of saying, unclassified positions are the exception to the rule in a merit-based system of employment like Civil Service.

Currently, there is no “Commander” position, really.  There is a “Commander” assignment.  The Commander assignment, which must be filled by someone holding the rank of Police Lieutenant or higher, comes with a special rate of pay.  While I am unaware of anyone actually pushing this particular issue, the NOPD stated that one of the reasons we need to reconsider this special rate of pay is that a special rate of pay does not confer any grant of authority.  So, the question is does a Police Lieutenant in the position of Commander have the authority to issue orders to a Police Major?  While I am unaware of anyone pushing this issue, there are reasons to reconsider the use of a special rate of pay for commanders.  The majority of people assigned to Commander positions are in the rank of Police Lieutenant.  Police Lieutenants are non-exempt employees.  That means they should make overtime like all other non-exempt personnel under the FLSA.  However, they do not get overtime.  They are currently being treated as exempt employees.  While their pension is controlled by their actual rate of pay, terminal leave is paid to these individuals based on their Civil Service classification.  Finally, it is just an abuse of the special rate of pay provisions.  This special rate of pay scheme was put in place in 2011 after the Civil Service Commission told then Superintendent Serpas that he could not have 16 unclassified Police Colonel positions.

So, if the positions were not fit to be unclassified in 2011, what has changed that would make them appropriate today?  Well, while not answering the preceding question, Superintendent Harrison said that Department of Justice report which led to the current Consent Decree indicted the prior leadership “had largely acquiesced to wide-spread abuses by officers at all ranks.”  Superintendent Harrison went on to praise the accomplishments of individuals currently in the position of Commander.  Finally, the Superintendent insisted that it was critical that he be able to “swiftly replace leaders who are not performing to standard.”

What is exceedingly clear from the arguments made by Superintendent Harrison is that the NOPD has some good leaders in the position of Commander and that Commanders are performing the jobs previously held by officers in the classified service and that Commanders do not have the type of policy-making authority that is not subject to further review or modification.  What is clearly lacking is any logical connection between the existence of the Commander special rate of pay and any of the accomplishments of the folks holding those positions.

During the meeting, Commissioner Stephen Caputo, the newest member of the Civil Service Commission, noted that on several instances in my letter to the Commission I stated the position of Commander had been historically held by Police Captains and Police Majors.  He then asked if I was advocating for the status quo, or doing things as they have always been done.

My response was that I was not arguing for the status quo, but that the Civil Service Rules require that the job responsibilities be unfit for performance by anyone in the classified service.  History shows us that prior to 2011, the job responsibilities were performed by employees in the classified service.  Nothing has changed to make the jobs unfit for the classified service.

That does not mean that we have to maintain the status quo.  For example, the NOPD has the longest working-test period for employees.  Working-test periods, otherwise known as probationary periods, are set at 6 months in the Civil Service Rules with a maximum of 1 year.  The NOPD has 1-year working-test periods across the board.  That means that if someone is promoted to the rank of Police Captain and is unable to meet expectations, they can be demoted to their prior classified position — for just about any reason.  Generally speaking, if someone is incapable of performing a job, that incompetence will reveal itself within a year.  My point is that before we go shopping for a new toolbox, maybe we should make sure that we are making the best use of the tools we already have.

Civil Service Commission Chair Michelle Craig said that the Commission wanted the opportunity to examine best practices.  While the idea of “best practices” aggravates me to no end, I was fascinated by Superintendent Harrison’s reply that NOPD was re-writing the best practices and, therefore, what they are doing is the de facto best practice.

In today’s environment of instant gratification, we have to be able to point out real-time problems to demonstrate why these ideas that run contrary to the civil service philosophy should be avoided.  That is an impractical demand.  However, make no doubt about it, it is coming.  There will be a discriminatory application of the “Great Place to Work Initiative,” if there hasn’t been one already.  The creation of 16 unclassified Commander positions, would eventually prove problematic.

The first merit-based civil service system can be traced back to Imperial China and Emperor Wen of Sui (AD 605).  It wasn’t until the 1940’s that Louisiana embraced the civil service system.  Even then, it was repealed in 1948 and re-established in 1952.  Since then, more than a few changes have been made to how civil service systems are administered.  However, the idea of a merit-based system of employment utilizing objective standards and competitive testing has persisted.

So, while I am not advocating doing things as we did them in 1992, I am advocating the maintenance of the underlying set of guiding principles which have served us well for a long time.  We don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.  We don’t ditch democracy just because there is a more efficient way to administer the Department of Education.  The New Orleans Civil Service Commission has taken some steps recently which are downright scary.  The “Great Place to Work Initiative” dismissed important civil service principles relating to promotions and competitive exams.  Of course, the NOPD would point to successes of newly promoted sergeants or lieutenants as if that is the result of the new system in some way.  If you are thinking they wouldn’t do that, that is exactly what they are doing with the Commander position.  Granting the NOPD 16 unclassified positions to replace the special rate of pay for Commanders would be counter to the underlying fundamentals of the civil service system.  Does that mean it has to be done the old way?  No.  It just means it shouldn’t be done the way the NOPD has proposed.

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New Orleans Civil Service Commission Meeting 2/20/2017

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The New Orleans Civil Service Commission is set to hold its regular monthly meeting on Monday, February 20, 2017.  At that meeting, the Commission will consider a request by the New Orleans Police Department to add 16 unclassified positions.  These 16 unclassified positions would seek to legitimize the position of Commander, which is currently a special rate of pay based on the assignment as commander of one of the Department’s 16 divisions.

The Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police opposes this request.  In short, the Department should use classified positions wherever possible.  This protects the employee, the public, and the integrity of the system.  Since the beginning of time until Chief Serpas’s recent tenure as Superintendent, these positions have generally been held by officers holding the classified rank of Police Captain and Police Major.  Those classifications are still available.

The use of Police Captain and Police Major for these positions not only shores up the integrity of the system, but provides officers with a well-defined career path.  As it stands today, these positions are being held by Police Lieutenants who have no job security.  So, the administration can cut their pay significantly for any number of unlisted reasons.

This, along with the changes made to the recent promotional system, has taken much of the fairness out of the promotional system of the NOPD and left it vulnerable to the type of political interference the Civil Service system was designed to eliminate.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE LETTER SUBMITTED TO THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE NEW ORLEANS CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.

Happy Black History Month, NOPD.

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Why I back NOPD should be a no-brainer. As a reasonably well adjusted ( lol) adult man, it should be expected that l support those risking life and limb for public safety. Now lets add the cultural nitroglycerine of race and see what I stir up, especially since it’s Black History Month 2017.
Hats off to the New Orleans Police Department ( NOPD ) for not quitting en masse when this morale and performance killing federal consent decree was applied to its cultural carotid artery. While many sought bluer pastures elsewhere, to the tune of a 40 year staffing shortage, enough remained in a city desperate for protectors.
Despite much publicized marches held by professional police protesters, scant attention is paid to arrests made whose net effect is fewer low income, urban lives being targeted. Every inner city gang dismantled, armed robber caught or rapist captured means our lives are spared or at least avenged in this majority Black city.
NOPD, against gale force opposition from one federal judge and police-handcuffing lawyers, nonetheless proves Black lives matter by the criminals it captures and frankly, the abuse taken trying to prove it isn’t racist to fringes who hate blue regardless of what reforms are enacted.
I’m one Black man speaking for myself and silent others when sharing why I back NOPD in a violent city needing it now more than ever. If our lives truly matter, then we who support protectors over predators can’t afford to be silent.
Happy Black History Month 2017 to the New Orleans Police Department. I even suspended my years long debate on the need for this observance to give you some well deserved credit.
Nadra Enzi aka Cap Black is creator of the Cap Black Street Patrol. 504 214 3082.

FOP Vigilance on the Fake News Front

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Members,

As some of you may have seen in the past week, Antigravity Magazine recently published a story (Get Behind the Mask, February 2017) disparaging the Fraternal Order of Police and law enforcement generally. Most importantly, author Jules Bentley leveled a serious allegation directed at a fictitious NOPD officer in her feature.

While I in no way wish to legitimize this fringe publication, it is troubling to consider that this writer is also a frequent contributor to Gambit Weekly. The FOP takes seriously the growing number of platforms in which conspiracy theorists spread nonsense and outright falsehoods that damage our relationship with the communities we serve. In such instances I make no distinction between legitimate media and this gratis alternative rag – if it has a circulation, the editorial board has a responsibility to fact-check. If they refuse to fact-check, the FOP will step in to rebuke such openly false claims.

Bentley’s incoherent stream-of-consciousness story makes little sense as it weaves between Nazis, police, and untruthful allegations of police misconduct during recent anti-Trump protests; the relevant excerpt can be found in the initial message of the email chain pasted below.

As always, the Fraternal Order of Police, New Orleans, remains vigilant in protecting our members (both real and fictional) and our profession from outright lies and we believe our duty to do so applies especially when such allegations are made in a public forum. While the exchange is humorous, keep in mind that at least some number of readers of this magazine believe this is journalism and the claims to be factual.

___________________________________________

To: Jules Bentley and Editorial Board, Antigravity Magazine (February 9, 2017)

From: Jacob Lundy, Fraternal Order of Police

In re: Get Behind the Mask, February 2017
The Fraternal Order of Police; New Orleans, requests this publication issue a retraction to the above captioned story produced by Jules Bentley for the February 2017 print edition.
The story contains the following graf; “‘Turn off your body cameras,’ NOPD’s Brian Mcadam yelled to other officers as he waded into the anti-Trump crowd that fateful Friday night, grabbing for and indiscriminately whaling on every non-cop within reach.”
In Ms. Bentley’s colorful account of this criminal act, the story references a fictitious employee, Brian Mcadam, who is neither a current or past police officer of this jurisdiction.
While your magazine does not hold itself out as journalism (clearly), it is no less reckless to pander such falsehoods to inadvertent consumers of satire who are not at all aware of the difference. Such wild assertions are tantamount to my callously referring to Ms. Bentley as a writer, without regard for the truth of the matter.
If your interns insist on venturing into print, perhaps they should spread their wings at the Hullaballoo, where they can be monitored by a more experienced editorial board.
Jacob Lundy
Fraternal Order of Police
Policy Advisor, State of Louisiana
Policy Advisor, New Orleans
Member, Louisiana Legislative Committee
Member, National Legislative Committee
__________________________________________________
From: Jules Bentley (cc Editorial Board
To: Jacob Lundy, Fraternal Order of Police
oh word what’s mcadam’s first name then? happy to correct that
p.s. “pander” doesn’t take a direct object without the preposition “to.”
p.p.s. louis ackal
__________________________________________________
From: Jacob Lundy, Fraternal Order of Police
To: Jules Bentley (cc Editorial Board)
No one with the surname “Mcadam” is employed by the City of New Orleans, in any division or department. That isn’t a correction, it’s a retraction.
____________________________________________________
 (No one from Antigravity Magazine has responded to the last email.)
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NOPD Pre-Disposition Conference (Waivers)

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I have been trying to keep everyone up to speed on the recent changes to the NOPD disciplinary system.  I have written on such topics as the new penalty matrix and the way progressive discipline functions in the new system.  I have also written about some of the excessive penalties that have resulted from the new system.  I have also recently been told that the NOPD plans on revising the system to alleviate some of the pressure placed on the department by handing out 20-day suspensions like they were candy.  One thing I feel like I have not really touched on are hearings in the current system.  It needs to be discussed because people have been signing documents entitled “Waiver of Predisposition Conference.”

If you are sustained for a violation of the rules and regulations of the NOPD, there will be 2 disciplinary hearings.  Under some circumstances those hearings could be handled as one.  An officer sustained for a violation of the rules and regulations of the NOPD pursuant to a formal disciplinary investigation will be required to attend a pre-disposition conference and a pre-disciplinary hearing.

The pre-disposition conference is an officer’s chance to submit evidence or convince the hearing officer that the charges should not have a disposition of sustained.  If the investigation is conducted by PIB, then PIB will conduct the pre-disposition conference.  If someone in the officer’s chain of command conducts the investigation, then the officer’s commander or bureau chief will conduct the pre-disposition conference.  The pre-disposition conference will be the ONLY chance to change the disposition of the investigation.

If an officer chooses to waive the pre-disposition conference, that officer is pleading guilty to the charges.  One would sign this form if one wanted to waive the pre-disposition conference.  Make sure you read through this form fully.  Of course, it could just say “I plead guilty to all of the charges no matter how ridiculous and request that I be suspended forthwith.”  If an officer is going to plead guilty, that officer would be well-served to do that in the beginning as part of a negotiated settlement in order to at least secure a reduction in the penalty.  It is my belief that officers are waiving these hearings, and thereby waiving their due process, without giving much thought to it.  I do not recommend anyone waive a pre-disposition conference without a really good reason.

The pre-disciplinary hearing follows the pre-disposition conference, assuming the disposition of the case remains sustained following the pre-disposition conference.  The pre-disciplinary hearing is conducted by someone in the officer’s chain of command.  Most pre-disciplinary hearings will be conducted by the officer’s commander.  More serious violations will result in pre-disciplinary hearings conducted by one’s bureau chief.  If the investigation was conducted by someone in the officer’s chain of command, then the officer’s commander or bureau chief may conduct both of these hearings in the same sitting.

If you are not sure why I chose to write this relatively short article on these two hearings, the answer is don’t waive pre-disposition conferences.  If you are presented with a document to sign and you aren’t quite sure what to do about it, pick up the phone.  It is better to be informed than to be giving away rights unknowingly.  If, after discussing the matter with someone who knows what they are talking about, you choose to sign the waiver, then there is a good reason for it.  Remember, most of the advice you get from your fellow officers that does not include “call your FOP attorney” is wrong.