Last week, the New Orleans Police Department sent an email to all department personnel advising that all personnel jackets were now available for review using Insight. I suggest that all NOPD employees take the opportunity to review this information for accuracy. If you find any inaccuracies, you can report them using the “Data Correction Form” found on the Home Page. The email sent to department personnel via NOPDALL on 8/30/17 read as follows:
All New Orleans Police Department Personnel,
As of today, all active New Orleans Police Department Personnel will be able to access their own scanned personnel documents through the “Personnel Jacket” Tile under the “View Documents” button within Insight. Insight is located within the Department’s “NOPD Applications”. If you observe any type of data that is incorrect within your Personnel Jacket, a “Data Correction Form” is available (within Insight on the Home Page) to complete and submit. This Data Correction Form will automatically be routed to the proper department in which the correction is to take place.
In the near future, all supervisors will be provided additional training on the functionality, capabilities and the benefits of the Insight system. The Early Intervention Unit will continue to develop and expand the system to meet the needs of the department with this technologically advanced management tool. These accomplishments greatly satisfy some of the Consent Decree requirements and credit is given to the many people who comprise our Technology Department who made this possible!
The following is the entirety of my post regarding the NOLA.COM story entitled Sewerage & Water Board, not Civil Service, to blame for hiring delays.
The Civil Service Commission Chairman is right that the Sewerage & Water Board asked that the ability to hire people be delegated to the Sewerage & Water Board. At that time, I stood up and argued against that delegation on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police. It was not that the request to delegate that authority directly impacted the police department, but that it adversely impacted the civil service system in general.
The Civil Service Commission Chairman correctly states that the Sewerage & Water Board has failed in hiring new people, not the Civil Service Department. What she fails to state is that in spite of these failures, the Civil Service Commission has not revoked that delegation of authority and continues to facilitate weakening Civil Service.
As the article points out, the Landrieu administration has attempted to “reform” the Civil Service Commission since 2010. The “reforms” they have instituted are antithetical to the purpose and goals of the Civil Service system. The Civil Service Commission has been complicit in these “reforms” since Mayor Landrieu began replacing Commissioners on the Civil Service Commission with people who are inclined to give the Mayor what he wanted in spite of the basic tenets of any merit-based system of employment.
As I stated above, I argued against delegating hiring authority to the Sewerage & Water Board. What they have done is reduce funding and staffing for the Civil Service Department and then complain about how the Civil Service Department is unable to meet the needs of various departments and then used this to justify decimating the Civil Service system in New Orleans. The other “reforms” the Landrieu administration and the Civil Service Commission have implemented are as much of a failure as the Sewerage & Water Board hiring delegation. Unfortunately, those failures do not result in street flooding or maybe they would have gotten some media attention. So, while we are on the subject of Civil Service, let’s talk about some other stuff.
The Mayor’s Great Place to Work Initiative, which was the greatest part of the “reforms” implemented by Landrieu, changed the way promotions were made. In effect, employees seeking a promotion take a test and all persons who pass the test are eligible to be promoted. Unfortunately, Louisiana Constitution Article X, Section 7 reads as follows:
“Permanent appointments and promotions in the classified state and city service shall be made only after certification by the appropriate department of civil service under a general system based upon merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service, as ascertained by examination which, so far as practical, shall be competitive. The number to be certified shall not be less than three; however, if more than one vacancy is to be filled, the name of one additional eligible for each vacancy may be certified. Each commission shall adopt rules for the method of certifying persons eligible for appointment, promotion, reemployment, and reinstatement and shall provide for appointments defined as emergency and temporary appointments if certification is not required.
Promotions under the Great Place to Work are not competitive and the test is not used to determine merit, efficiency, fitness, or length of service, as the Constitution requires. In addition to these recently acquired deficiencies, the Civil Service Rules on promotions prior to the Great Place to Work Initiative were the product of a consent decree in the matter of Larry Williams v. City of New Orleans, 725 F2d 1554 (5th Cir. 1984). The consent decree in the Williams case set out to eliminate discrimination in the promotional process.
The Williams consent decree developed the use of banding test scores to allow the NOPD greater flexibility in choosing promotional candidates to ensure racial equity while maintaining the Louisiana Constitution’s requirements of assessing merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service through competitive testing. In addition the usage of banding allowed the Civil Service to reduce the error inherent in testing, making test results more accurate. The Williams consent decree, and the resultant banding system, was the result of a number of expert psychometricians and experts from other relevant fields under the oversight of a federal judge. The Great Place to Work Initiative undid the changes implemented by the those experts via the Williams consent decree. The Great Place to Work Initiative re-opened the door to discrimination, favoritism, nepotism, and other ism’s. The Great Place to Work Initiative was not compiled by experts in the field, but it negated changes that were made by experts.
The Great Place to Work Initiative has also led to morale problems. Employees are now uncertain about what it takes to get promoted. Given that uncertainty, it is nearly impossible to resist the conclusion that promotions are being made on the basis of who you know instead of what you know or your ability to perform the job. None of this inspires confidence in the system or the department’s leadership.
In addition to the changes made to the promotional system, the Civil Service Commission has recently added 16 unclassified positions to the New Orleans Police Department. These 16 unclassified positions were previously held by classified employees. The Civil Service Commission approved this request in spite of objections by the Civil Service Department and arguments presented by myself and others. Simply put, the addition of these unclassified positions was contrary to the Civil Service Rules and the underlying notion of the merit-based system of employment. Unclassified positions are the exception to the rule and the addition of these unclassified system effectively denies classified employees a promotional opportunity because they have effectively replaced the classified position of Police Captain.
This just skims the surface of what is wrong with the Civil Service Commission now and the problems caused by the Great Place to Work Initiative. The New Orleans Fire Department has experienced many of the same problems as the NOPD. I am sure there are issues I am unaware of. Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin, CAO at the time, once told me that the Civil Service Department was too overly concerned with fairness. Maybe in private enterprise an employer can place other things ahead of fairness. However, in public service, fairness is the cornerstone of a healthy Civil Service system.
The Civil Service Commission was right to point the finger at the Sewerage & Water Board regarding these hiring problems. But, the Civil Service Commission needs to look a little closer to home regarding the Great Place to Work Initiative. Maybe they can avert the inevitable disaster that will result from this wanton destruction of the Civil Service Rules.
The Great Place to Work Initiative needs to be repealed. There is nothing wrong with implementing changes to improve the efficiency of the Civil Service Department. However, wholesale changes to a system which was the biggest reform to public service this country has ever seen is a tremendous mistake — a mistake which has already been made.
Donovan Livaccari, Spokesman
Fraternal Order of Police
Crescent City Lodge #2
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:
- How much time in grade will be required for Senior P/O? I believe the answer will end up being 3-4 years.
- 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.
- Will the minimum requirements for Police Sergeant change? I don’t think so.
- 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).
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)
The Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police offers unrivaled benefits to its members. The FOP offers educational opportunities, prep for promotional exams, scholarships for members and family members, among other things. The FOP’s Legal Defense Plan offers legal professionals to represent you in administrative disciplinary actions, civil actions, criminal investigations, and use of force, including officer involved shootings. In addition, while, strictly speaking, falling outside of the Legal Defense Plan, the FOP also provides legal services to its members regarding injuries, grievances, payroll problems, and many other employment areas. Finally, the FOP provides each member 4 hours of legal services related to family law matters and 2 hours of legal services for whatever purpose the member may need. Often, that is enough time to cover a last will and testament, or a living will.
Some of these benefits are paid using dues money and some of these benefits are paid through the FOP’s Family Fund. The FOP’s Family Fund is funded through donations. Some of these donations come from private citizens or businesses in the private sector. However, the majority of donations to the Family Fund come from our members. While we cannot always rely on outside interests to fund our operations, we have always been able to rely on our members to look out for each other. It is the idea of brotherhood, or fraternity, that is embodied not only in the FOP’s name, but in the underlying foundation of the FOP.
Following Hurricane Katrina, donations to the FOP Family Fund were commonplace. It was more common to find FOP members, both active and retired, who voluntarily contributed to the Family Fund than to find those that did not. Unfortunately, the economic downturn in 2007-2008 hurt FOP members as much as it hurt anyone else in our community. That economic pressure made it difficult for some members to continue their contributions to the Family Fund.
Fortunately, we have weathered the storm and the economy has rebounded. With that in mind, I would like to suggest that FOP members who are not contributing to the Family Fund consider doing so once again. Contributions to the Family Fund are made via payroll deduction. I would suggest $5 per pay period. However, you can choose any amount to contribute and any contribution benefits our members.
Some of the benefits funded by the Family Fund include:
- Disaster Assistance – Following Katrina, Gustav, and most recently a spate of tornadoes that hit New Orleans East, the FOP was able to assist its members with immediate disbursements of cash when it was needed, immediately.
- Injury Assistance – When FOP members are injured on duty, it makes it impossible for officers to work overtime, details, or earn other income they might ordinarily be able to earn. The FOP provides assistance, upon request, to its members in the form of $500/month for up to 4 months, as needed.
- Reassignment Assistance – When FOP members find themselves on administrative reassignment, that can cause a significant financial burden. FOP members may find themselves reassigned following an officer involved shooting or as a result of a disciplinary investigation. The FOP provides this assistance, upon request, in the form of $500/month for up to 4 months, as needed.
- In addition, the FOP fields requests from individual members based on individual needs on a regular basis. Those requests are sent to the FOP’s Executive Board to be considered on a case by case benefit.
The FOP Family Fund is one of the tools that enables the FOP to provide the kinds of services FOP members have come to expect. The FOP has made every effort to provide the most benefits to its members, particularly where a specific need exists.
If you are currently contributing, thank you. If you are not currently contributing and you would like to do so, please contact Jim Gallagher at 504-442-4050.
The FOP Family Fund also provides an opportunity for members to make a direct contribution to the welfare of their brothers and sisters. It feels good to be able to help members of the family in blue. If we don’t look after our own, who will?
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.
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.
THE FOLLOWING IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR NOPD EMPLOYEES:
The New Orleans Police Department, like many other police departments, issues take-home vehicles to some employees. In fact, the NOPD intends to expand the number of take-home vehicles in use by department employees soon. Recently, the NOPD ordered the first 100 of 400 new police vehicles which will be issued to FTO’s and platoon personnel. For those officers who are issued take-home vehicles or may be issued take-home vehicles in the future, it is imperative that these officers understand the City’s take-home vehicle policy or risk personal liability in connection with these vehicles.
CAO Policy Memorandum 5(R) states that the NOPD can assign marked take-home vehicles to officers who live in Orleans Parish and travel to and from work to that location in Orleans Parish. Otherwise, officers must live in Orleans Parish and have less than a 40-mile commute and be available and regularly called out on a 24-hour basis (think unmarked cars for detectives). CAO Policy Memo 5(R) further states that officer assigned take-home vehicles can only use these vehicles for official purposes, including details, with one big exception. Officers assigned take-home cars are allowed to use these vehicles for personal use when they are incidental to driving to or from work. In other words, an officer can stop at the cleaners on the way home to pick up clean uniforms, assuming the dry cleaners is not in Tangipahoa Parish.
City vehicles should not be used to perform personal business. However, in some instances, take-home vehicles may be used to perform incidental, personal errands outside the course and scope of City business, so long as the errands are conducted to and from work without significant deviation, are brief in nature, and do not detract from the employee’s activities as a public servant.
This leads to the BIG CATCH. The City is self-insured. As such, it regulates its own insurance policies in conjunction with state law. With regard to take-home vehicles, if an officer uses the vehicle for personal use, including driving to and from details, the City WILL NOT PROVIDE INSURANCE COVERAGE OR REPRESENTATION in the event of an accident and a lawsuit.
Such limited personal use, while permitted, does not fall under any coverage provided by the City’s self-insurance program.
CAO Policy Memo 5(R) Sec. XVI, Paragraph F reads as follows:
Insurance: Each Department or Authorized External User, authorized by contract, will require that every employee with a take-home vehicle provide a copy of their current personal automobile insurance policy or their current personal non-owned automobile insurance policy to the Appointing Authority. It shall be the responsibility of each department to ensure that insurance policies or proof of insurance coverage are submitted as they are renewed. Copies shall be provided to the City’s Risk Manager.
Vehicle use outside the scope and purpose of employment by the City, whether permissible or not, is not covered by the City’s self-insurance program. [Note that Authorized External Users are not covered by the City’s self-insurance program – See Certificate of Insurance Letter] Every employee with a take- home vehicle must endorse their current Personal Automobile Policy to provide coverage for Non-Owned Autos, including Physical Damage Coverage and provide evidence of the coverage in force. Minimum personal automobile insurance coverages and limits required of employees with take-home autos are as follows:
i. Automobile Liability, Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability – Mandatory State Minimum Financial Responsibility Limits.
ii. Uninsured Motorist – No less than the Minimum Financial Responsibility limits, or your liability limits, whichever is greater.
iii. Comprehensive and Collision – Any deductibles will be the sole responsibility of the employee and will not be borne in any way by the City, for damage due to accidents outside the scope and purpose of employment by the City.
iv. Non-owned coverage including Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability and Physical Damage (“Comprehensive” and “Collision”).
Any employee with a take-home vehicle that does not own a personal vehicle or have a Person Automobile Insurance Policy in force must purchase a Personal Non-Owned Automobile Liability and Physical Damage Coverage (“Comprehensive and Collision”).
The Auto Liability limits shall be at least the Mandatory State Minimum Financial Responsibility Limits for bodily injury and property damage. Any deductibles will be the sole responsibility of the employee and will not be borne in any way by the City, for damage due to accidents outside the scope and purpose of employment by the City.
Police Officer Jason Samuel was involved in an automobile accident driving his take-home police car on November 14, 2010. Officer Samuel was on his way home from a detail when, while sitting at a red light, his foot slipped off the brake and he struck the vehicle in front of him. Fortunately for Officer Samuel, he was a member of the FOP Legal Defense Plan. The City Attorney’s office advised Officer Samuel that they would not be representing him in connection with the lawsuit following this accident. Officer Samuel’s insurance company told him the same thing. Officer Samuel was ultimately represented by Tony Livaccari, Livaccari Law, through the FOP Legal Defense Plan. While the FOP Legal Plan provided Officer Samuel an attorney, it did not pay the settlement in the matter. Ultimately, that would end up costing Officer Samuel more than $5,000.00.
Police Officer Robert Ponson is in the same boat. Officer Ponson was involved in an accident on the way home from a detail and was involved in an accident in his assigned take-home vehicle. Officer Ponson was also advised that the City Attorney would not provide him with representation since he was on the way home from a detail. His insurance company indicated the City should be representing him. Again, the FOP Legal Plan will be providing representation for Officer Ponson.
It is imperative that officers who are assigned a take-home vehicle call their insurance agents or insurance companies and arrange for non-owned vehicle coverage. Officers should make the situation perfectly clear. If the insurance company does not write that coverage, then the officer needs to either get an additional non-owned vehicle policy, change insurance companies, or give the take-home vehicle back.
Officers have to understand that their personal assets are exposed should they get in an accident if they are not properly insured. It is simply not worth the risk to operate a take-home vehicle if the security of the officer’s family is compromised. Soon, the NOPD will be offering 400 take-home vehicles to officers who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be assigned a vehicle. The temptation will be strong. Leaving the car at the station is not an option if the car will be used to drive to and from details. The bottom line is get the insurance or give the car back and make sure you belong to the FOP and the FOP Legal Defense Plan.