The Garrity Case and Law Enforcement Officers

Garrity v. State of New Jersey, 87 S.Ct. 616 (Jan. 16, 1967) is a very important case for law enforcement officers everywhere.  It is also widely misunderstood and there are aspects of its implementation that are as of yet undecided.  The fact that this case is very important to law enforcement officers and still widely misunderstood underscores the value of the FOP Legal Defense Plan and attorneys who practice law on behalf of law enforcement officers every day.

It has been well-documented that one of the biggest legal issues people face is that they cannot afford access to the legal assistance they need.  Many legal issues go unaddressed.  I am sure that if you haven’t experienced this yourself, you probably know someone who has.  The FOP Legal Plan helps FOP members access the legal services they need.  I cannot say this enough:  Pick up the phone and call.  It doesn’t matter how important or unimportant it seems, pick up the phone and call.  As an FOP member, you have access to legal professionals at no cost to you beyond your monthly dues.  Pick up the phone and call.  Now, on to Garrity v. State of New Jersey.

Six individuals, including Police Chief Edward Garrity, four police officers, and a clerk of court were investigated by the New Jersey Attorney General at the direction of the New Jersey Supreme Court in connection with a ticket fixing racket.  During questioning, the employees were advised that:

  1. Anything he or she said might be used in a criminal proceeding;
  2. He or she had the privilege to refuse to answer if the answer would tend to be self-incriminatory; and
  3. Refusal to answer would be cause for removal from office.

The answers to their questions were used in their prosecution, over their objections, to secure their conviction for conspiracy to obstruct the administration of traffic laws.  The convictions were affirmed by the New Jersey Supreme Court and an appeal was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions, holding that police officers were “not relegated to a watered-down version of constitutional rights.”  Basically, the U.S. Supreme Court held that since they were given the choice of self-incrimination or job-forfeiture, the statements were coerced.  Since the statements were coerced, they were inadmissible.

We now hold the protection of the individual under the Fourteenth Amendment against coerced statements prohibits use in subsequent criminal proceedings of statements obtained under threat of removal from office, and that it extends to all, whether they are policemen or other members of our body politic.

Garrity v. State of N.J., 385 U.S. 493, 500, 87 S. Ct. 616, 620, 17 L. Ed. 2d 562 (1967).

What that boils down to for police officers is that any time their employer, or someone who is authorized to terminate the officer’s employment, informs an officer that the choice is answer questions or be fired, those answers, and any fruits of those answers, will be inadmissible in criminal proceedings against that officer.

First issue:  The person asking the questions must have the authority to terminate the officer’s employment.  For example, if an FBI Agent tells a city police officer that they are required to answer questions or be terminated, Garrity does not apply.  If a city police officer is ordered by his employer to answer the Agent’s questions or be fired, then clearly Garrity will control.

Second issue:  In order for Garrity to control, the officer must reasonably believe that he will be terminated should he refuse to answer.  If the penalty for refusing to answer is minor or non-existent, the answers will be considered voluntary and will be admissible.  It is preferable to have this ultimatum in writing.  At the very least, it should be audio recorded.  If it is not in writing or read into the record by someone in a position of authority, the officer will have to prove that he had a reasonable belief that he was under an order to answer questions or face termination.  This is not a sure thing.

Third issue:  Garrity does not stand for the proposition that officers have the option of refusing to answer incriminating statements.  It only stands for the proposition that police officers cannot be coerced into making incriminating statements by threatening their employment.  The cases known as Uniformed Sanitation I and Uniformed Sanitation II address refusal to answer and, basically, if the statements are immunized, an officer can be terminated for refusing to answer.

Fourth issue:  Garrity protects an officer from incriminating himself.  It does not mean that the statements cannot be used against someone else.

Fifth issue:  Garrity stands for the proposition that coerced statements are inadmissible in a criminal proceeding.  That may not include grand jury proceedings.

There are many other questions about the application of Garrity.

  • Can the ADA get copies of Garrity protected statements?  Yes.  If they do, they run the risk of having evidence ruled inadmissible as a result.  The DA may very well be able to use Garrity statements for Grand Jury proceedings.
  • What is the remedy if an ADA gets copies of Garrity protected statements?  That depends.  If it is possible to continue the prosecution if the statements or their fruits are excluded, it could be continued.  If, however, the statements or their fruits are so intertwined with the prosecution that there is no way to separate them from excluded statements, then the remedy could be dismissal.
  • What about statements made in police reports?  While officers are probably required to complete police reports or face disciplinary action, statements in police reports are not likely to qualify as immunized statements.  In general, statements made in the normal and usual course of business will not be immunized statements.
  • What if I write in my own Garrity warning?  There is a school of thought that if an officer perceives that he is answering questions under a thread of termination, that he should write that in.  I do not see a downside to that.  However, there is no real reason to believe it will be successful.
  • If I am ordered to answer questions, can I assert my 5th Amendment right to remain silent?  No.  In the Uniformed Sanitation II case, the court held that once you are immunized, you no longer have the right to remain silent.
  • Do the holdings in Garrity apply to breathalyzers, blood tests, etc.?  No.  Garrity applies ONLY to statements (testimonial or communicative communication).  See Schmerber v. State of California, 384 U.S. 757, 86 S. Ct. 1826 (June 20, 1966).
  • Are the contents of police reports subject to the provisions of Garrity?  No.  Documents written in the regular course of business are not going to be covered by Garrity.  In prosecution of police officer for beatings and assaults, the government’s introduction in evidence of the arrest report made out by defendant concerning the drug raid in which the complainants were arrested, and his grand jury testimony, did not implicate in any way his right against self-incrimination.  U.S. v. Rios Ruiz, C.A.1 (Puerto Rico) 1978, 579 F.2d 670.
  • What about Force Statements?  One could make the case that Force Statements are compelled testimony as the documents are created as a result of an order specifically related to the act in question.  This is not settled.  It is worth noting that most prosecutors believe these are NOT Garrity protected documents.  This may be a good place to include your own Garrity statement, but may very well turn into a trial-time fight about admissibility.

Is this a special perk of being in law enforcement?  Are police officers given some benefit not available to the average citizen?  No.  Everyone has the right to remain silent pursuant to the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Most people do not have government agents as employers.  Police officers, and other public employees, can be ordered to answer questions posed by government agents or face termination.  Private employers can order an employee to answer questions, but answering those questions does not place a private employee in the position of having to incriminate themselves to a government agent.  One way or another, the fact is that the application of Garrity simply allows police officers and other government employees to make use of the same constitutional protections as everyone else.

There are plenty of resources available on the internet regarding Garrity.  You can download the Garrity case by clicking here (.pdf).  You can download the Schmerber case here (.pdf).

Don’t hesitate to contact your FOP attorney with any questions about Garrity or any other legal issues you may encounter as a police officer.

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U.S. Fifth Circuit Case Alert

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Officer should be aware of the below case.  The Fifth Circuit held that officers who are aware of a constitutional violation can be liable under bystander liability if they fail to intervene.  In such a case, because the law is clearly established, an officer will be denied qualified immunity.  It is additionally a violation of many department policies (including NOPD) to fail to intervene in an unlawful use of force.

Fifth Circuit

Hamilton v. Kindred, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 623 (5th Cir. Tex. Jan. 12, 2017)

Brandy Hamilton and Alexandria Randle were pulled over by Officer Turner for speeding. After Officer Turner smelled marijuana, he ordered the women to exit their vehicle. Hamilton was wearing a bikini bathing suit, and Randle was similarly dressed. Officer Turner handcuffed the women and searched their vehicle. During this time, Officers Ron Kinard and Amanda Bui arrived. After Officer Turner searched the vehicle, he asked Officer Bui to search Hamilton and Randle. Officer Bui conducted a body cavity search on both women while on the side of the road. Hamilton and Randle subsequently filed a lawsuit against the three officers under 42 U.S.C. §1983 claiming the invasive cavity searches violated their Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Officers Turner and Bui reached settlement agreements with Hamilton and Randle. Officer Kindred argued that Hamilton and Randle failed to adequately allege that an excessive use of force occurred. In addition, Officer Kindred argued that he could not be liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as a bystander for not intervening to prevent the body cavity searches; therefore, he was entitled to qualified immunity.

The district court denied Officer Kindred qualified immunity. The court found that Hamilton and Randle had adequately alleged a claim of excessive force. The court also held it was clearly established at the time of the incident that bystander liability applied. In addition, the court concluded that there was a serious dispute as to material facts in the case regarding the objective reasonableness of Officer Kindred’s actions. Officer Kindred appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

First, to bring a § 1983 excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment, a plaintiff must show that she was seized. Here, the court of appeals found that Hamilton and Randle clearly alleged in their complaint that they were seized during the traffic stop when they were handcuffed and placed in the officers’ patrol cars. In addition, the women alleged that they were detained for over thirty minutes and subjected to invasive body cavity searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Second, the court held that Officer Bui’s insertion of her fingers into the plaintiffs’ body cavities constituted a use of force, which the plaintiffs allege occurred during their seizure.

Third, at the time of the incident, it was clearly established that it was not reasonable to conduct a roadside body cavity search, unless there were exigent circumstances that required the search to be conducted on the roadside rather than at a medical facility. Consequently, the court found that Hamilton and Randle alleged facts showing that they were subjected to an unreasonable use of force “excessive to its need.”

The court further held, at the time of the incident, it was clearly established in the Fifth Circuit that an officer could be liable as a bystander in a case involving excessive force if he knew a constitutional violation was taking place and he had a reasonable opportunity to prevent the harm.

However, because there were serious disputes as to material facts regarding Officer Kindred’s potential liability as a bystander, the court of appeals lacked jurisdiction to hear this portion of the case and dismissed Officer Kindred’s appeal.

For the court’s opinion: http://cases.justia.com/federal/appellate-courts/ca5/16-40611/16-40611-2017-01-12.pdf?ts=1484267434
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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.

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.

Attended A Mediation Session

I recently was invited by a friend who is an NOPD officer to attend a mediation facilitated by members of the Office of Independent Police Monitor. My role was to be his support person and chime in as needed during the discussion.

Across the table was a highly agitated fellow whom my friend has cited and arrested numerous times over the years. Their relationship is replicated endless times around the county and world between police officers and problem people on their beats.

It was a fiery exchange of allegations and not-so-subtle threats which my friend weathered with trademark calm. It provided a ringside seat for how measures to foster understanding between officers and the public they encounter can also be abused by career criminals to berate and accuse an officer.

We emerged the same as we went in, two supporters of proactive policing and community partnerships facing a proponent of crime & excuse making. The experience once again made me appreciate policing in what I call a ” post-police : city where law enforcement is overseen by folks who confuse our streets with mythical Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show.

As a friend and safety advocate, I could do no less than honor his request to be a support person.

Nadra Enzi aka Cap Black, safety advocate in an unsafe city.

 

 

Hate Crimes and the Blue Lives Matter Law

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In the 2016 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, La. R.S. 14:107.2 was revised to amend paragraph A and add paragraph E via Act No. 184, H.B. 953 by Representative Lance Harris.  The change to paragraph A added the following phrase “or because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel” to the motivations which can qualify a crime as a hate crime.  Paragraph E included definitions of emergency medical services personnel, firefighter, and law enforcement officer.  For the purposes of this discussion, law enforcement officer is defined as follows:

“an active or retired city, parish, or state law enforcement officer, peace officer, sheriff, deputy sheriff, probation or parole officer, marshal, deputy, wildlife enforcement agent, state correctional officer, or commissioned agent of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, as well as a federal law enforcement officer or employee, whose permanent duties include making arrests, performing search and seizures, execution fo criminal arrest warrants, execution of civil seizure warrants, any civil functions performed by sheriffs or deputy sheriffs, enforcement of penal or traffic laws, or the care, custody, control, or supervision of inmates.”

There have been a few missteps in the application of this law.  On September 5, 2016, the perpetrator of criminal damage to a French Quarter hotel was charged with violating La. R.S. 14:107.2 based on racial and gender slurs used against the arresting officer.  On October 26, 2016, another individual was charged with violating La. R.S. 14:107.2 with the underlying crime being terrorizing when he told the 911 operator that “he was going to shoot and kill any officer that responded to the call.”  Neither of these charges made it very far.  The charge was refused by the District Attorney in the September 5, 2016 case and the Magistrate dismissed the hate crime charge and the terrorizing charge in the September 5, 2016 case, opting for La. R.S. 14:59, criminal mischief, instead.

What constitutes a hate crime?

As with any other crime, La. R.S. 14:107.2 hate crimes, has necessary elements that must be met.  The law reads as follows:

It shall be unlawful for any person to select the victim of the following offenses against person and property because of actual or perceived race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry of that person or the owner or occupant of that property or because of actual or perceived membership or service in, or employment with, an organization, or because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel: first or second degree murder; manslaughter; battery; aggravated battery; second degree battery; aggravated assault with a firearm; terrorizing; mingling harmful substances; simple or third degree rape, forcible or second degree rape, or aggravated or first degree rape; sexual battery, second degree sexual battery; oral sexual battery; carnal knowledge of a juvenile; indecent behavior with juveniles; molestation of a juvenile or a person with a physical or mental disability; simple, second degree, or aggravated kidnapping; simple or aggravated arson; communicating of false information of planned arson; simple or aggravated criminal damage to property; contamination of water supplies; simple or aggravated burglary; criminal trespass; simple, first degree, or armed robbery; purse snatching; extortion; theft; desecration of graves; institutional vandalism; or assault by drive-by shooting.

Therefore, the elements of the crime are:

  1. A person
  2. must select a victim
  3. of one of the enumerated offenses
  4. because of
    1. actual or perceived race, or
    2. age, or
    3. gender, or
    4. religion, or
    5. color, or
    6. creed, or
    7. disability, or
    8. sexual orientation, or
    9. national origin, or
    10. ancestry of that person or the owner or occupant of that property, or
    11. actual or perceived membership or service in, or employment with, an organization, or
    12. because of actual or perceived employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel.
  5. The enumerated crimes are:
    1. first or second degree murder, or
    2. manslaughter, or
    3. battery, or
    4. aggravated battery, or
    5. second degree battery, or
    6. aggravated assault with a firearm, or
    7. terrorizing, or
    8. mingling harmful substances, or
    9. simple or third degree rape, or
    10. forcible or second degree rape, or
    11. aggravated or first degree rape, or
    12. sexual battery, or
    13. second degree sexual battery, or
    14. oral sexual battery, or
    15. carnal knowledge of a juvenile, or
    16. indecent behavior with juveniles, or
    17. molestation of a juvenile or a person with physical or mental disability, or
    18. simple or aggravated criminal damage to property, or
    19. contamination of water supplies, or
    20. simple or aggravated burglary, or
    21. criminal trespass, or
    22. simple, first degree, or armed robbery, or
    23. purse snatching, or
    24. extortion, or
    25. theft, or
    26. desecration of graves, or
    27. institutional vandalism, or
    28. assault by drive-by shooting.

This law is, by necessity, a specific intent crime.  Violation of La. R.S. 14:107.2 results in an additional penalty that runs consecutively with the underlying offense.  So, in order to charge someone with a violation of La. R.S. 14:107.2, the officer must have probable cause to believe that the offender violated the underlying offense and then that they selected the victim of the crime based on the reasons listed in the statute (4(a)-4(l) above).

It is not enough that the victim has specific traits or associations.  The victim must be chosen for that reason.  In the September 5, 2016 incident, the offender allegedly committed the crime of simple criminal damage to property by breaking some windows at the Royal Sonesta hotel in New Orleans’s French Quarter.  The offender also made some racially offensive comments to a security guard and other rude and insensitive remarks to the female officer who made the arrest.  Being an ass does not make one guilty of a hate crime.  Furthermore, even if the comments which led to this charge were sufficient to constitute resisting arrest, it is still not a hate crime.  Resisting arrest is not, in and of itself, a hate crime.

Example of what could be considered a hate crime:

John Doe, a sovereign citizen, is sitting at home seething about how much he dislikes law enforcement officers.  He knows that active and retired law enforcement officers gather at the FOP lodge.  He grabs his firearm of choice and heads over the FOP lodge where he opens fire, striking nobody.

Example of what is not a hate crime:

John Doe, a sovereign citizen, is having a few beers, walking around the neighborhood harassing people.  The police are summoned to the area and decide to arrest Mr. Doe for public intoxication.  When the police attempt to apply handcuffs, Doe says “I hate you law enforcement professionals and there is no way you are putting those cuffs on me.”  He then proceeds to fight like the dickens, but is ultimately subdued and incarcerated.

The Legislature, the Governor, and the people of Louisiana sent a powerful message in passing the law that they support law enforcement and appreciate the dangers our law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers face.  However, officers must be circumspect in its application.  Officers and the community alike would be better served if this statute were reserved for those unprovoked attacks on police officers that are unrelated to any action taken by the officers.

In any event, if an officer finds himself inclined to charge someone with a hate crime, against a law enforcement officer or any of the other protected classes, that officer should ensure that he can articulate probable cause establishing that the offender specifically intended to commit one of the enumerated crimes because the victim fit one of the protected classes listed in the statute.  This usually involves a more in-depth investigation into the motivation of the perpetrator.  It may be a good idea to consult with the District Attorney prior to charging anyone with violating La. R.S. 14:107.2.  If there is any difficulty articulating the probable cause necessary to demonstrate that the perpetrator intentionally chose the victim of one of the enumerated crimes because the victim was part of a protected class, then perhaps it would be better to consult with the District Attorney and let them add the charge via grand jury or bill of information.

2016 – Year in Review


First of all, happy New Years to all who happen by this blog.  2016 is behind us and that is probably a good thing.  2017 will present some new challenges for law enforcement and the Fraternal Order of Police will be there for its members.  I would like to extend my usual invitation to any FOP members who would like to advocate on behalf of themselves and other law enforcement officers.  The FOP is an organization run by its members on behalf of its members.  If you want to be involved, all you have to do is let someone know.  

The FOP Legal Defense Plan continues to be the best legal plan available to law enforcement officers.  In 2016, there were some significant changes made to the NOPD disciplinary system.  While these changes were effective in May, 2016, the impact wasn’t felt until late in the year.  In 2017, we will feel the full brunt of these changes and I believe the end result will be more suspensions and more Civil Service appeals.  There could be instances where you would expect a letter of reprimand which may end up being a 30-day suspension.

Late in 2016, I heard more than once “I can’t believe the FOP agreed to these changes (to the disciplinary system).”  The fact is that the FOP did not agree to these changes.  We were given an opportunity to comment on the new disciplinary policy.  I was the only one to submit comments.  I submitted several several pages of comments.  The next time I saw the policy, it was in its current form.  Several of our comments were put into the new policy, but there were plenty of comments that were disregarded.  That was the extent of the input into the current disciplinary policy.  So, what we now have is a system which makes it much easier for a violation to be a second or third offense.  In addition, one of the procedural safeguards which existed previously was changed.  Like I said – more suspensions and more appeals.  Please don’t hesitate to call if you are the accused or a witness in a disciplinary investigation.  You may think the allegation is minor or whatever, and it may be.  But, will it can never hurt to call your FOP attorney.  No case is too nsignificsnt. 

In 2016, I represented 398 individual police officers in some fashion.  I represented officers in:

  • 228 statements or interviews
  • 76 Bureau Chief or Commander’s Disciplinary Hearings
  • 7 Pre-Disposition Conferences (new policy)
  • 36 Accident Review Board Hearings 
  • 51 appearances before the Civil Service Commission
  • 23 Civil Service appeal hearings

Livaccari Law also helped numerous officers with automobile accidents, both on-duty and off. We also created wills, living wills, and power of attorney for FOP members and handled several successions. While Livaccari Law does not practice family law, the FOP has a good family law benefit and I was able to direct a number of officers in the right direction to get the assistance they needed. 

2017 will undoubtedly present similar needs for FOP members.  Likewise, the FOP Legal Defense Plan will be there for you when you need it.  All you have to do is pick up the phone.