http://metrocrime.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/NO-CJS-Accountability-Report-May-2017.pdf

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Current NOPD Issues: Negotiated Settlements, Education in Lieu of Discipline, and Discipline in the Consent Decree

The Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police represents 1,009 active New Orleans Police Department Officers, or about 90% of all current police officers in New Orleans. There are 1,022 other members of the Crescent City Lodge, including 863 retirees, 43 NOPD Reserve Officers, 12 terminated NOPD Officers, 89 other active law enforcement officers, 4 associate members, and 11 honorary members. The Crescent City Lodge offers unmatched legal representation and offers services and benefits to members that are unrivaled. It is impossible for me to keep everyone up to date on everything the FOP is working on on behalf of our members. Here are a few highlights:

  • The FOP employs a lobbyist, Joe Mapes of Mapes & Mapes, to represent our interests in Baton Rouge during the legislative session. Since this current legislative session has been in session, there have been a number of bills introduced which are adverse to law enforcement officers. We have participated in numerous discussion, telephone conferences, meetings, etc. to either eliminate these bills or minimize their impact on FOP members. We have been working closely with the Louisiana FOP and other law enforcement groups from around the state to try to get the best outcome for law enforcement officers. In particular, a recent article in one of the law enforcement blogs, the headline read that the legislature had stripped officers of due process rights. The headline is misleading, but it is misleading because the FOP fought to ensure the due process rights of law enforcement officers were protected. You may receive emails from the Louisiana FOP asking you to participate in Voter Voice. This system allows you to send emails to your elected officials on our legislative priorities.
  • The FOP is representing several officers in civil suits resulting from accidents in police cars. In addition to providing legal representation through the FOP Legal Plan, the FOP is working with the administration to change the City’s policies as they relate to take-home cars.
  • The FOP paid for the families of Officers Jude Lewis and Natasha Hunter, both killed in the line of duty, and two escort officers, to attend the National FOP Police Week functions where their names will be added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial.

NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENTS

There seems to be an increase in the NOPD’s use of negotiated settlements. From the Department’s perspective, the use of negotiated settlements gives the Department a way to deal with disciplinary investigations and their impact on manpower. The Department’s interpretation of the consent decree has created a disciplinary system which strains our already strained manpower. Negotiated Settlements allow the Department to dispose of complaints by taking action in a way that doesn’t result in hours upon hours of work by multiple employees. Click here to view the regulation on Negotiated Settlements.

How does it work?

When complaints are received by PIB, they are analyzed for classification. Criminal allegations are sent to the criminal section, some are sent to the Independent Police Monitor for mediation, and some are deemed appropriate for Negotiated Settlement. These are minor infractions that seem fairly straightforward. Once a case is deemed appropriate for Negotiated Settlement, PIB sends a packet to the officer’s commander. Once the commander receives the packet, a Presentation Meeting is scheduled. This could be the first time the officer becomes aware of the pending complaint.

At the Presentation Meeting, the commander will provide the officer with the information regarding the complaint. This should include details of the allegations, including the particular infraction(s) and the evidence, and where the violation falls on the penalty matrix should the allegation be sustained and what the penalty will be if the officer accepts the Negotiated Settlement.

At the conclusion of the Presentation Meeting, the officer has three choices. The officer can 1) accept the offered settlement and penalty; 2) request a reflection period; or 3) reject the offered settlement.

If the officer accepts the offered settlement and penalty, then that is the end of the line. The complaint is not sent out for investigation and the settlement documents are sent up the chain of command for the necessary approvals.

If the officer requests a reflection period, then the officer gets 5 days to think about whether or not to accept the settlement and penalty. At the conclusion of the 5 days, the commander and the officer have a settlement meeting where the officer informs the commander of his decision. If the officer chooses to accept the settlement, then that is the end of the line and the paperwork is sent up the chain of command. If the officer rejects the settlement, then it is sent out for investigation. The decision to accept or reject the settlement offer can be made prior to the end of the 5 days. If no decision is made within 5 days, it is sent out for investigation.

What are the considerations?

First of all, I recommend you contact your FOP attorney regarding any Negotiated Settlement. Your FOP attorney is in a position to discuss whether or not the Negotiated Settlement is a good idea. The rules and regulations, including the disciplinary regulations, are not necessarily something officers study on a regular basis. Consulting with your FOP attorney will increase your chances of making the best possible decision. Also, bringing your FOP attorney into the situation will make you eligible for the FOP’s salary reimbursement option should you end up with a suspension.

The primary reasons for accepting a Negotiated Settlement should be that the officer did, in fact, commit the alleged infraction, and the penalty will be less than the penalty should the complaint go through the normal disciplinary process. For those officers on a promotional register, Negotiated Settlements have the added benefit of resolving a complaint as quickly as possible so that a pending investigation doesn’t interfere with a promotion.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that it is beneficial for some, but not all. If the officer didn’t commit the alleged dereliction, then the officer might not want to take the settlement. If the investigation, should it be investigated fully and sustained, would result in a Letter if Reprimand, and the settlement offer is a Letter of Reprimand, then the officer might want to consider letting the Department investigate. However, if the pending investigation would prevent a promotion and the officer did, in fact, violate the rules as alleged, then it may very well be in the officer’s best interest to accept the settlement. Call your FOP attorney. It will make the analysis a little easier.

EDUCATION IN LIEU OF DISCIPLINE

On May 21, newly revised regulations on discipline will become effective. One of the new options available to supervisors will be the use of education in lieu of discipline. In the case of minor, rank-initiated complaints, education may be available to replace suspensions of 10 days or less. For violations that fall in the “D” class or higher, education cannot be used to eliminate discipline, but it can still be used to reduce it. In short, for A, B, and C violations, training can be used to eliminate suspensions 10 days or fewer. For D, E, F, or G violations, or suspensions greater than 10 days, training can serve to reduce the penalty. Click here to see the new regulation on Non-Disciplinary Responses to Minor Violations and the Disciplinary Penalty Matrix (includes education in lieu of discipline).

DISCIPLINE AND THE CONSENT DECREE

After many meetings and much complaining by the FOP, there are some pending changes to the consent decree, particularly paragraphs 143, 328, and 404. The changes will relieve supervisors from responding to a level 1 use of force. In addition, disciplinary investigations which can be conclusively resolved through the use of video evidence (BWC or MVU) can be disposed of without further investigation. We recognize that investigation of complaints is an extremely important aspect of modern policing. That being said, the FOP remains committed to reducing the adverse impact these investigations have on the efficiency of an officer’s ability to do the job expected of him or her. Click here and here to see the impending changes to the consent decree. The FOP also remains committed to fair outcomes of these investigations.

One of the biggest problems facing the legal profession is that many of the people who need legal services the most cannot afford those legal services. The FOP Legal Defense Plan makes legal services available to its members at an affordable price, all contained in bi-weekly dues. Appealing a suspension would likely be beyond the financial resources of your average officer. When that appeal goes to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal or the Louisiana Supreme Court, the ability to absorb that cost becomes even more unlikely. When an officer falls into a situation like we have seen around the country in places like Missouri, Maryland, and Minnesota, where legal representation is not an option but a requirement, it can have a life-changing impact that no officer can survive on his own. Fortunately, as an FOP member, YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. Click here for contact info.