#NOPD 2017 Pay Plan Initiative

The New Orleans Police Department announced new pay increases on July 5, 2017. Since then, I have been approached with numerous questions about this pay plan. The following is my appreciation for the plan as it exists now. The plan has to go before the Civil Service Commission and the City Council for approval, but that seems like that won’t be a problem. During recent discussions of a proposed special rate of pay for Homicide Detectives, the FOP suggested that the NOPD needed to examine all special rates of pay and advocated for a bold pay initiative to help with recruitment and retention. This plan, which was put together by the NOPD’s Deputy Chief of Staff, is a step in the right direction. We made some additional suggestions and there are a few questions about this plan that remain unanswered. The following is the plan as it exists today. Salaries below do NOT include state pay or millage. 

Police Recruit salaries will remain unchanged at $40,391.84. Our suggestion was that NOPD increase this and all other salaries by an additional 5% so new hires also benefit from the round of increases.

Police Officer I will become Police Officer and the base salary will increase to $46,885.00, a 10.45% increase.

Police Officer II, III, and IV will be consolidated as Senior Police Officer. The base salary for Senior Police Officer would be $51,783.84, a 16.08% increase over P/O II, 10.45% over P/O III, and 5.09% over P/O IV. Anyone who is a P/O II, III, or IV will automatically become a Senior P/O at the time the plan is implemented. The FOP is encouraging the department to allow P/O II promotions prior to the implementation of the plan to maximize the number of officers who are eligible to become Senior P/O. 

A new classification titled Master Police Officer would have a base salary of $57,194.53. The Master Police Officer position would be unlike Senior Police Officer insofar as there will be a limited number of Master P/O positions available and the test will be a competitive test. Everyone who qualifies to be a Senior P/O will become a Senior P/O. Master P/O’s would be selected in much the same way Sergeants are selected now (which, frankly, is a mystery to me). Master P/O’s will be limited by assignment. For example, each district may have one Master P/O per platoon. Master P/O’s may also have some supervisory responsibility. There will probably not be an educational requirement for Master P/O.

Police Sergeant will have a base pay of $63,170.56. This represents an increase of 16.08%.

Police Sergeant will have a base pay of $69,771.01. This represents an increase of 19%.

Police Captain will be increased to $77,061.11, an increase of 10.45% and Police Major will be increased to $80,987.01, an increase of 6.41%. Of course, we are operating under the belief that there won’t be any new Captains or Majors any time soon.

The plan also includes 4 detective “positions.” Detective would be the effective equivalent of Senior Police Officer. Lead Detective will be the effective equivalent of Master Police Officer. Detective Sergeant would be the effective equivalent of Police Sergeant and District Detective Lieutenant would be the effective equivalent of Police Lieutenant.

I do not think that a decision has been made about whether the detective positions would be actual classifications, some type of sub-classification, or a special rate of pay. Based on the administration’s recent addition of unclassified commanders and an overall assessment of the department’s current philosophy about various positions, it is my belief that the department will want to be able to un-make a detective easily. In order to be able to un-make a detective easily, the detective’s positions has to either be a special rate of pay or some type of sub-classification. Any change of classification which results in a reduction in actual pay (not a special rate of pay) is a demotion. Demotions must be supported by cause expressed in writing and are disciplinary actions. It is my belief that the department wants to be able to make and un-make detectives much like they can make and un-make Commanders now. We will see how this shakes out, but I think we can count on detectives making 10% more than their effective equivalent. Of course, this is speculation.

So, the questions that remain are things like:

  1. How much time in grade will be required for Senior P/O? I believe the answer will end up being 3-4 years.
  2. How much time in grade will be required for Master P/O? I believe the answer will likely be the same as for Police Sergeant.
  3. Will the minimum requirements for Police Sergeant change? I don’t think so.
  4. How will the detective positions shake out? It may not be a true career path.

If there are questions, feel free to ask. I don’t know if I have the answer, but I will try. Also, any NOPD employees who have thoughts or suggestions about the foregoing, feel free to share. A copy of the proposal can be downloaded here (.pdf).

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5th Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Termination of Wife-Swapping Deputies

There is an interesting case that would normally fall in the “Hard to Believe” category and remembered only for its entertainment value. Unfortunately, the case comes out of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Therefore, the case sets precedent in the federal court circuit in which we live. The case is Brandon Coker and Michael a Golden v. Julian Whittington and Charles Owens. The case arises out of the Western District of Louisiana (we are in the Eastern District of Louisiana) and involves two Sheriff’s Deputies. Since they are Sheriff’s Deputies, they are at-will employees and do not have Civil Service protection.

The case involves two employees of the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office, Coker and Golden. Coker and Golden swapped wives. Actually, they swapped families. Golden moved into Coker’s house and Coker moved into Golden’s house. Nothing else changed and nobody got divorced. When Chief Deputy Owens learned of this arrangement, he told Golden and Coker that they either went back to their own homes or they would be considered voluntarily terminated. Needless to say, the two deputies did not comply with the Chief Deputy’s instructions. They were terminated for a provision of the Sheriff’s Code of Conduct that states employees must “Conduct yourselves at all times in such a manner as to reflect the high standards of the Bossier Sheriff’s Office … [and] Do not engage in any illegal, immoral, or indecent conduct, nor engage in any legitimate act which, when performed in view of the public, would reflect unfavorabl[y] upon the Bossier Sheriff’s Office.” This is similar to NOPD’s Professionalism rule. They were also charged with failing to notify a supervisor of a change of address within 24 hours.

One thing that is disconcerting about this case is that Coker and Golden lost not once, but twice – Western District and the 5th Circuit. The District Court held that the disciplinary action was to be upheld because the policies at issue are “supported by the rational grounds of preserving a cohesive police force and upholding the public trust and reputation of the Sheriff’s Department.”

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held that precedent in the 5th Circuit has uniformly upheld terminations for sexually inappropriate conduct. Furthermore, the Court held that there are no decisions which stand for the proposition that an officer’s freedoms to associate under the 1st Amendment means freedom to associates with the other’s wife before a formal divorce. They went on to say that pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Garcetti, public employees “shed some of their constitutional rights as a legitimate exchange for the privilege of their positions.” They went on to say the rule was not constitutionally vague.

The rest of the justification for the holding speaks best for itself. So, here is the Court’s reasoning:

We find no reversible error of fact or law in the district court’s decision. Sexual decisions between consenting adults take on a different color when the adults are law enforcement officers. Their enforcement duties include, for instance, crimes of human trafficking and spousal abuse that place them in sensitive positions with members of the public. Their involvement in relations that openly and “notoriously” violate the legally sanctioned relationships of marriage and family is likely to besmirch the reputation of the Sheriff’s Department and hinder its ability to maintain public credibility. Moreover, these officers’ extramarital relationships, even if consensual and loving at the outset, have great potential to create internal dissension within the force. Finally, it is not hard to envision how the existence of Coker’s and Golden’s cohabitation with each other’s wives prior to divorce and remarriage might be adversely used in litigation concerning the deputies’ official conduct.

 

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Obergefell v. Hodges does not alter applicable law. ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 2598, 192 L.Ed.2d 609 (2015). Whatever ramifications Obergefell may have for sexual relations beyond the approval of same-sex marriage are unstated at best, but Obergefell is expressly premised on the unique and special bond created by the formal marital relationship and children of that relationship. Id. at 2594–95. Obergefell does not create “rights” based on relationships that mock marriage, and no court has so held.

While I don’t think I would recommend house-swapping, I am baffled by the connection between an officer’s ability to investigate human trafficking or domestic violence and the officers’ decisions to swap households. The moral to this story is that, as law enforcement officers, one cannot rely on the Constitution to provide the protection is does for everyone else – at least in the eyes of some ultra conservative jurists.

The case can be downloaded here (.pdf): Coker v. Whittington, 858 F.3d 304, 2017 WL 2240300 (C.A.5 (La.)), 2 (C.A.5 (La.), 2017)