2019 FOP Legal for NOPD

Each year, I like to take a look back at the preceding year to give the members of the Crescent City Lodge of the FOP an overview of the disciplinary system in New Orleans and the services I provided to members of the FOP Legal Defense Plan. It has been pretty consistent the past few years and this year is no different.

I would like to start by pointing out that every case, whether you are an accused officer or a witness officer is the kind of case you should call me about. I regularly have officers tell me that they didn’t call because they didn’t think it was a big deal or because I might be too busy for them. Unfortunately, this commonly happens after a not so big deal has become a big deal. I have been representing police officers since I graduated from law school. So, I understand that officers don’t always get a whole lot of notice before finding themselves involved in an investigation or being notified of a Civil Service extension hearing. My practice has been built around those types of cases from the beginning.

You are guaranteed legal representation by the Louisiana Police Officer’s Bill of Rights. You should always take advantage of that. Having a legal representative has a number of benefits. First of all, I will make sure your rights as listed in La. R.S. 40:2531 are protected. Hopefully, we can avoid little to nothing cases turning into a big deal. Having an attorney from the FOP Legal Plan also makes you eligible for the Salary Reimbursement Option where the FOP will repay you for up to 5 suspension days in lieu of appealing the disciplinary action. There is no downside to exercising your right to counsel.

I would also like to emphasize that when I represent a police officer through the FOP’s  Legal Defense Plan, The attorney-client relationship exists between me and the officer I represent, not the FOP. So, any privilege exists between me and the officer. Any decisions are made based on conversations between me and the officer. If you are a member of the FOP Legal Defense Plan, we will be there for you. We don’t ask any questions or make any judgments. The FOP does not interfere in my representation of any Legal Plan member. There is no downside to exercising your right to counsel.

In 2019, I represented 412 individual officers in one capacity of another. There were at least 726 PIB control #’s cut by the NOPD in 2019. There were certainly more than that.

In 2019, I represented officers at 237 interviews (statements) with investigators as part of formal disciplinary investigations. I represented officers at 100 pre-disciplinary hearings. I represented officers in 11 Rule 9 hearings, 36 Accident Review Board hearings, and 111 extension request hearings. I represented 13 officers in 5 officer-involved shootings.

I would expect 2020 to look a lot like 2019. Feel free to call and I will be there for you — there is no downside to exercising your right to counsel.

FYI – Civil Service Appeals

Rule II, Section 4.3 of the Rules for the New Orleans Civil Service Commission state as follows:

“Appeals to the Commission must be actually received in the Department of Civil Service no later than the close of business on the thirtieth (30th) calendar day following the date of the disciplinary letter provided to the employee by the Appointing Authority. Should the thirtieth (30th) calendar day fall on a weekend or an official city holiday, written appeals will be accepted no later than the close of business on the workday immediately following. The date the appeal is date/time stamped in the Civil Service Office shall be presumed to be the date of receipt of an appeal. (amended June 10, 1982; August 25, 1983; January 21, 1988, effective February 1, 1988).”

Why is this important? This is important because if you want to appeal discipline taken against you, the appeal has to be filed in a timely manner.

IF YOU DO NOT FILE THE APPEAL WITHIN THIRTY (30) DAYS OF IMPOSITION OF THE DISCIPLINE, THEN THEY WILL ALLOW YOU TO FILE AN APPEAL, BUT IT WILL BE THROWN OUT WHEN THE CITY FILES A MOTION FOR SUMMARY DISPOSITION.

I habitually explain to my officers upon conclusion of a disciplinary hearing the following information:

  1. The hearing officer (Commander, Deputy Chief, Superintendent’s Disciplinary Committee) only makes a recommendation because only the Superintendent of Police (the Appointing Authority) can institute discipline.
  2. The fact that a pre-disciplinary hearing has been held does not mean the FDI (Formal Disciplinary Investigation) is complete.
  3. The recommended discipline has to go up the chain of command. Assuming everyone who has to sign does so after circling “APPROVED,” the case goes to a stack of cases awaiting disciplinary letters.
  4. It is not complete until you receive “cause expressed in writing” as required by the Louisiana Constitution. That “cause expressed in writing” is memorialized in the form of a disciplinary letter. That letter is written on NOPD letterhead and signed by the Superintendent.
  5. There is no telling when you might be issued the disciplinary letter. You will receive a phone call, an email, or some type of notice that you need to report to PIB to sign for the disciplinary letter.
  6. This letter is important for several reasons.
    1. First and foremost, it satisfies the requirements of the Louisiana Constitution.
    2. Secondly, it starts the clock on the 30 days you have to file an appeal as specified in New Orleans Civil Service Commission Rule II, Section 4.3 as quoted above. The date typed on the top of that letter is the date used to start counting the 30 days.
    3. Since you are a good FOP member, if you choose not to appeal, you can send that letter to me for the FOP’s Salary Reimbursement Option.
    4. The letter also says when the suspension starts (assuming suspension time is involved).
  7. Whatever appeal hearing follows is limited to the contents of the disciplinary letter.
  8. FINALLY, THE NOPD DOES NOT PROVIDE ME A COPY OF THE DISCIPLINARY LETTER. YOU, MY OFFICER CLIENT, HAVE TO LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU GET THE DISCIPLINARY LETTER. THIS IS CRUCIAL BECAUSE WHILE I WILL FILE THE APPEAL AND I CAN GET IT FILED THE SAME DAY I RECEIVED THE DISCIPLINARY LETTER, 31 DAYS IS TOO MANY.

Who is entitled to an appeal? New Orleans Civil Service Commission Rule II, Sec. 4.1 reads as follows:

“Regular employees in the classified service shall have the right to appeal disciplinary actions to the Commission, including dismissal, involuntary retirement, demotion, suspension, fine, reduction in pay, or letters of reprimand as defined in Rule I. However, a demotion, reinstatement to a lower classification, transfer, reduction in pay or layoff resulting from the application of the provisions of Rule XII governing layoffs shall not be considered a disciplinary action and thus shall not warrant an appeal except as provided in Sections 4.5 and 9.1 of Rule II. (amended June 10, 1982; May 19, 1988, effective June 1, 1988, amended February 17, 2014, effective March 1, 2014).”

New Orleans Civil Service Commission Rule I, Sec. 1, Paragraph 66 defines “Regular Employee” as:

“an employee who has been appointed to a position in the classified service in accordance with the Law and these Rules and who has completed the working test period.”

That translates to employees who have successfully completed any probationary period.

Have questions? You know what to do.

Happy New Year and some Advice on Disciplinary Investigations

First of all, I hope everyone had an enjoyable Holiday Season. It would be nicer if the Saints played like the offensive masters they are instead of letting the Vikings’ defense dictate the game. That being said, I know there are a lot of officers in New Orleans who were born and grew up in other parts of the country. If you’re not a Saints fan yet, I hope your team is faring better.

On a regular basis, I hear from officers “I didn’t want to bother you with something so minor” or “I know you are super busy, so I didn’t want to waste your time…” So, I want to get it straight.

First and foremost, you should call no matter how stupid or ridiculous the accusations may be.

What if you didn’t call at the beginning of the investigation? That’s ok. Calling is the important part. Got an email from Civil Service about a hearing you have to attend? Call me. I will help you out with that. Got a notice to render a statement? Call me. Got a call (or email if your computers are working) from your rank about scheduling a statement? Call me. Don’t think they can do whatever? Call me,

The fact is that sometimes I can be busy. That is because my practice is all about representing law enforcement officers. If you call and I can’t answer, leave a message or send a text message. You can send documents by texting or emailing photos of the documents.

The FOP’s Legal Defense Plan allows officers to benefit in so many ways that I can make my practice about representing law enforcement officers. It is important to remember that as a member of the FOP Legal Defense Plan, the attorney-client relationship exists between me and the officer. The FOP Legal Defense Plan acts only as the third-party plan administrator on behalf of the Legal Defense Plan. The FOP is not a part of the attorney-client relationship and doesn’t have any decision making authority in how a case is handled.

The FOP’s Legal Defense Plan covers administrative disciplinary investigations (on or off-duty), criminal investigations (on or off-duty – there may be some limitations to off-duty coverage), and defending civil actions related to an on-duty incident (secondary to primary coverage of employer). This legal protection is provided to accused officers or witness officers. In addition, the FOP will provide 2 hours of legal services per year for any legal need (Crescent City Lodge only) and 4 hours of legal services per year for family law issues (Crescent City Lodge only). The FOP also provides free notary services without limitation (Crescent City Lodge only).

The only trick to accessing these amazing legal benefits for law enforcement officers is to be an FOP member and pick up the phone and call or text — simple as that.

Yes. It was offensive pass interference.