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.

Disciplinary Investigations and Off-Duty Conduct

This time of year, it is inevitable that an officer or two get in trouble for off-duty conduct. Sometimes the off-duty conduct leads to significant disciplinary action. The FOP will be there for you, as always, but, generally speaking, it is easy to avoid the off-duty behavior that comes to the attention of the Public Integrity Bureau, or Internal Affairs as the case may be.

The vast majority of discipline related to off-duty conduct is related to sex or the use of alcohol.

As police officers, you see it every single day. People who have been drinking make poor decisions. I’m just going to go ahead and say the obvious – Police Officers who have been drinking make poor decisions too. You may be able to get some professional courtesy on a regular traffic stop (and you might not – some officers are real nervous with a BWC and an ICC recording their every word and move), but if you are involved in an accident, the officer may not have any choice but to take action. A close relative of mine was stopped by an officer who used to be one of my subordinates. We did not have a contentious relationship and I helped him out quite a bit. I was surprised to learn that particular officer had arrested someone he knew to be a close relative of mine when he could have just as easily given him a ride home. My relative had not been involved in an accident or anything like that, it was a simple traffic stop. The point is that today’s political atmosphere makes it less likely that officers exercise any type of discretion.

It’s not just driving either. Alcohol can make it seem like a good idea to start an argument with the guy sitting on the barstool next to his. Alcohol can make it seem like a good idea to start a fight with an ex-husband. Did you know it is legal for an officer to carry a concealed firearm in an alcoholic beverage outlet? La. R.S. 14:95.5 allows it, as does the federal laws known as LEOSA. If, however, you think it is a good idea to carry a concealed weapon in a barroom, I would have to ask you if you are drinking while reading this. Just don’t do it. Just FYI, you are not covered by LEOSA if you are intoxicated. Also, for the New Orleans Police Department, Rule 3, Professional Conduct, Paragraph 9, Use of Alcohol/Drugs Off Duty, says that commissioned personnel are forbidden from carrying firearms in an ABO, while consuming alcohol, or while intoxicated. Part of that rule may still violate LEOSA, but La. R.S. 14:95.5 allows the Superintendent to make it a violation of Department rules to carry a firearm in an ABO.

Sex is the next source of off-duty disciplinary action. It is not a good idea to hook up with people you meet on calls for service. It does not matter if they are the complainant or the subject of the complaint.

If you come across someone who looks like they could use a ride home, make sure it is to their home and not yours. Make sure the dispatcher knows about it and that all of the transport mileages are recorded. Finally, make sure all of the recording devices you carry around these days are activated.

There are also police officers involved in abusive relationships. Now, I understand this is not as simple as just saying “don’t do it.” I would, however, like to encourage any officer involved in an abusive relationship to seek help. At the New Orleans Police Department, Cecile Tebo is available at no cost through the Office Assistance Program to help however she can. No matter where you are or what department you work for, there is help available somewhere. Take advantage of that help before you lose your job over it.

The standard, as is always the case, is that the alleged infraction must bear a real and substantial relationship to the efficient operation of the public service. The Courts in Louisiana have applied that rule fairly liberally. That means that if your Department believes there is a real and substantial relationship between the alleged dereliction and the efficient operation of the public service, the Courts are likely to go along with that.

As we are recently reminded by the Louisiana Supreme Court, neither the Commission nor a reviewing court should “second-guess” an appointing authority’s decisions. See Lange v. Orleans Levee District, 10–0140, p. 17 (La.11/30/10), 56 So.3d 925, 936. The Commission and a reviewing court may intervene only when the appointing authority’s decisions are arbitrary and capricious or characterized by an abuse of discretion. Id. Moreover, neither the Commission nor the reviewing court may serve as a de facto pardon board. Id. “[S]ympathy is not a legal standard.” Id.

Chinh Nguyen v. Dep’t of Police, 2011-0570 (La. App. 4 Cir. 8/31/11), 72 So. 3d 939, 944.
I hope everyone has had an enjoyable Holiday Season and that none of this advice is necessary. If it becomes necessary, call me.

Millage Lawsuit Payments 1980-1994

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Click here for information on the distribution of funds resulting from the FOP’s millage lawsuit covering the period 1980-1994. There will be an additional distribution covering later years.

http://nopdmillage.com/

Hurricane Barry Payroll

Recently, Mayor Cantrell declared a state of emergency due to Hurricane Barry in the Gulf of Mexico. The Fraternal Order of Police (We) received numerous phone calls from officers concerned that the city would pay them correctly. I spoke with the police administration several times and Asst. Superintendent Noel assured me that Superintendent Ferguson was committed to making sure NOPD paid everyone correctly. An email to NOPDAll indicating that there could be a delay in when NOPD would be making payments for the declared state of emergency got officers worried again.

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VERY IMPORTANT – 1st Amendment Update

UPDATE (8/1/19) – I started off with warnings not to share your political ideas on Facebook or the like. My recommendation has changed. Do not post anything on Facebook, Twitter, or the like. There are no privacy settings that will protect you. Sometimes it takes it hitting home to really make the message clear. 2 Gretna Police Department officers fired for one Facebook post. However, these days, hitting home does not mean it only hits home. The story of the 2 Gretna officers fired for Facebook posts can also be found in the New York Times. One of the Gretna officers wrote a post. The other officer merely clicked “Like” on the post. Play around with the search bar on Facebook. It is much more powerful than you might imagine. Search Google for tips and tricks for the Facebook search bar.

Just don’t do it. If you want to share pictures of your newborn child with your relatives spread across the country, go ahead – use Facebook – you can’t beat it. However, if you have a joke, a meme, or anything like that, keep it to yourself. When is the last time you tried to convey humor or sarcasm in a text message and it failed completely? It is very difficult to convey emotion or feeling. The same is true with Facebook. To make matters worse, there are those who don’t understand that articles in The Onion are satire, or what satire is. There are people who really believe that the United States Postal Service would create a  commercial to brag about the number of fingers shipped by kidnappers. They are quite comical. You will find at least some of them amazing and amusing. However, what you wrote as a police officer can and will get you fired. Hitting a “Like” button is reported in the New York Times.

We post the FOP newsletter in the Crescent City Lodge Facebook Group. Anything wrong with reading that there? No. You probably cannot post in the Crescent City Lodge Facebook Group at all — well, not without approval. Why? It is for your own protection. There is no such thing as privacy on the Internet and nothing goes away. There are some things that are completely beyond your control. This is not one of those things. Educate yourself and protect yourself – click here.

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Do you want to be in the movies?

I received an email from Central Casting Louisiana. The test of the email is below. Anyone who is interested (and available) can email Hunt@CentralCasting.com.

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New Orleans Lieutenant Exam Candidate Review Sessions

On Monday, November 12, 2018, the New Orleans Civil Service Department sent test results from the recent Lieutenants Exam to the test takers. 74 NOPD Police Sergeants took the exam. Out of those 74, 51 passed the exam (69%) and 23 failed (31%). The highest score 94 and the lowest score was 20. The average score was 57 and 53 was the cut-off between pass and fail (the lowest passing score). The Lieutenants List can be found here.

Starting November 14, 2018, the Civil Service Department will begin having candidate feedback sessions with Ms. Bharati Belwalkar. Ms. Belwalkar is the Civil Service Department’s psychometrician who is dedicated to NOPD testing. The intent of this article is to try to give candidates a realistic idea of what to expect in that candidate feedback session.

First, the candidate feedback session is NOT an appeal of your score or a protest of any questions. Your score on the exam will NOT change as a result of the candidate feedback session. The purpose of the candidate feedback sessions is to help the candidate understand their areas of strength and improvement, and to better prepare for the next opportunity to take the exam.

You will NOT see the test questions, your answers, or how they were scored. You will be given information intended to help you focus your studies next time. If you know where your weakest areas were, then you will be able to prepare better next time.

The meeting, which will probably be recorded, will start off by reviewing the 3 main components of the exam: Part 1: In-Basket, Part 2: Structured Interview, and Part 3: Oral Presentation. All three of these components were equally weighted in calculating the candidate’s final score. You will see a graph that looks like this:

The graph shows each component of the exam, the highest score of each component, and the candidate’s score for each component. On the example above (not real test results), the candidate scored 67% on Part 1, 28% on Part 2, and 54% on Part 3. Clearly, the candidate did the best on Part 1 and the worst on Part 2. Ms. Belwalkar will discuss each component in terms of the candidate’s performance on the types of questions covered in it. If any of the raters had specific comments about the candidate’s answers, that information will be shared with the candidate.

Next, Ms. Belwalkar will go through the six competencies tested by the exam. Those competencies followed by the weight assigned to that competency are:

  1. Demonstrating Department’s Values (12%)
  2. Leadership and Supervisory Responsibility (26%)
  3. Operational Effectiveness (25%)
  4. Critical Thinking and Strategic Planning/Problem Solving and Decision Making (18%)
  5. Communicating Orally and/or in Writing (9%)
  6. Partnering with the Community (10%)

You will see another graph that looks like this:

Like the first graph, this graph shows the total percentage weight of each competency and the candidate’s percentage score for each competency. The example candidate profile indicates that the candidate demonstrated about 50% proficiency in every category. Because the competencies are weighted differently, it may be more important to strengthen up those areas, but it appears this candidate needs an equal amount of work across the board. Ms. Belwalkar will work with the candidate to make the information the most useful.

Finally, you will have an opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Remember, you will not have the opportunity to review your test answers, the scoring rubric, or the questions. I guess you can ask, but I would expect the answer to be that it can’t be shared. The reason for this is test security. Sometimes questions are re-used or are changed a little and then re-used. If the questions or answers to the questions were passed around, they would not be able to use any form of those questions again or risk the validity of the exam.

Each candidate’s answer was scored by 3 different raters who used a common rubric to score the exam. The 3 raters then discussed their ratings in order to eliminate error and reach a consensus score.

If you want to schedule a candidate review session, you can sign up for it here. If you have issues accessing this link, contact Ms. Belwalkar at 504-658-3508 or bbbelwalkar@nola.gov. Ms. Belwalkar is New Orleans Civil Service Personnel Administrator for the Test Development & Validation Division, working in the capacity of Senior Psychometrician.

We know that there are going to be at least 23 people who are not pleased with their test scores. Unfortunately, the New Orleans Civil Service Rules do not contain any process for appealing a score or how your exam was graded. When the exam contains a multiple-choice section, the Civil Service Department allows for protests of questions. In those circumstances, the protest is made before the exam is scored and the answer can be validated specifically by reviewing the appropriate text. In the event that a protest reveals a problem, the answer key can be changed or double-keyed to fix the problem. However, there was no multiple-choice section on this exam. The answers, and the scoring rubric, were developed in consultation with subject matter experts (SME’s) from the NOPD. The overall examination and its scoring rubric were reviewed by another group of NOPD SME’s to ensure accuracy and thoroughness. Since the types of questions and answers do not lend themselves to protest, none were allowed. Each exam was graded the same way by 3 different raters. The Civil Service Department has done there absolute best to make sure that everyone had the best chance to succeed.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Commander Louis Dabdoub for donating his time to help FOP help NOPD officers prepare for the exam. I also want to thank Travers Mackel of WDSU for helping candidates prepare for the exam. As usual, the FOP is dedicated to providing whatever assistance it can to help FOP members succeed.

FOP Legal Plan and NOPD Discipline Part 2 – A Sustained Disposition

In my previous post about the FOP Legal Plan and the NOPD disciplinary system, I reviewed some general things about disciplinary investigations and the FOP’s Legal Defense Plan. I discussed notice, the FOP’s Salary Reimbursement Option, Extension Requests, and a few other things. This time, I am going to assume that the investigation has been completed – you and your FOP attorney have made a statement to the investigator and the investigator is ready to recommend a disposition.

The NOPD requires that the investigator issue NOPD Form 308 to the accused officer as the last step in the investigation before sending the case up the chain of command for review. NOPD Form 308 bears the title Notice to Accused Law Enforcement Officer Under Investigation of Completed Investigation. While the title of this form has changed a number of times over the years, the purpose has not. As I mentioned in the prior post, La. R.S. 40:2531(b)(7) requires that an investigation be completed within 60 days (120 days max). The statute says that the investigation will be considered complete upon notice to the law enforcement officer under investigation of a not sustained or unfounded disposition or notice of a pre-disciplinary hearing. NOPD Form 308 purports to cover all of these circumstances, thereby marking the end of the investigation. The investigator completes this form without approvals up the chain of command. Therefore, the disposition(s) can change.

NOPD Form 308 includes dates for a Pre-Disposition Conference and a Pre-Disciplinary Hearing, as well as each charge that was alleged and the disposition recommended by the investigator for that charge. Since the investigator does not know who is going to hold either of these hearings or the content of the hearing officer’s calendar, these dates are simply made up. As of this date, I have not seen a pre-disposition conference or a pre-disciplinary hearing held on the dates found on NOPD Form 308.

If the disposition on all charges is Not Sustained, Unfounded, or Exonerated (or any combination thereof), there will not be any type of hearing to come. I have had a number of questions in that regard lately. The NOPD does not conduct a pre-disposition conference or a pre-disciplinary hearing on any case with no sustained allegations.

If there is an allegation with a sustained disposition, then there will be at least one, and maybe two, hearings that follow. Depending on who conducted the investigation, the accused officer will receive either a Notice of Pre-Disposition Conference or a Notice of Pre-Disciplinary Hearing, or both.

If someone assigned to PIB conducted the administrative investigation and the potential penalty is not severe, then PIB will conduct the Pre-Disposition Conference and the Bureau to which the accused officer is assigned will conduct the Pre-Disciplinary Hearing. In that case, the accused officer will be issued a Notice of Pre-Disposition Conference by PIB at least 5 days prior to the hearing. If at the conclusion of the Pre-Disposition Conference there are still sustained allegations, then the accused officer will receive a Notice of Pre-Disciplinary Hearing a few weeks after the Pre-Disposition Conference either from the Division where the accused officer is assigned.

If the investigation is conducted by someone from the accused officer’s Bureau (usually the same Division) and the potential penalty is not severe, then the Pre-Disposition Conference and the Pre-Disciplinary Hearing will be conducted by the accused officer’s commander. These two hearings will be conducted together.

If the potential penalty for any sustained violation is severe (usually a 30-day suspension or greater), then the Pre-Disposition Conference and the Pre-Disciplinary Hearing are conducted together by a Superintendent’s Disciplinary Committee. A Superintendent’s Disciplinary Committee is chaired by the accused officer’s Bureau Chief and consists of the accused officer’s Bureau Chief and two (2) other Bureau Chiefs.

Pre-Disposition Conference

The purpose of a Pre-Disposition Conference is to finalize the investigator’s recommended disposition. The accused officer should be given notice of what alleged violations were sustained and why they were sustained. This notice would be found on the Notice of Pre-Disposition Conference. It is not on NOPD Form 308. The purpose of this hearing is to give the accused officer an opportunity to respond to the allegations sustained against him or her and, hopefully, eliminate any mistaken sustained allegations. At this hearing, the accused officer has the chance to explain why the sustained charges should not have been sustained.

It is important to note that the accused officer has the option of waiving the Pre-Disposition Conference. Commonly, the Notice of Pre-Disposition Conference is emailed along with a form which can be used to waive the Notice of Pre-Disposition Conference. If the accused officer waives the Pre-Disposition Conference, then all of the charges that were recommended sustained by the investigator will remain sustained. DO NOT WAIVE THIS PRE-DISPOSITION CONFERENCE WITHOUT CONFERRING WITH COUNSEL. I have seen where accused officers have inadvertently waived the Pre-Disposition Conference. Make sure you read what you are signing before signing.

Pre-Disciplinary Hearing

If, at the conclusion of the Pre-Disposition Conference, there are still sustained violations, the accused officer will have to attend a Pre-Disciplinary Hearing. The purpose of the Pre-Disciplinary Hearing is to give the accused officer the opportunity to give any mitigating factors and for the accused officer’s commander to recommend a penalty to the Superintendent. The disposition of the alleged violations cannot be changed at this hearing. The penalty is derived from the penalty matrix found in NOPD Chapter 26.2.1, which contains a presumptive penalty, a penalty with mitigating factors, and a penalty with aggravating factors. The penalty recommended by the accused officer’s commander can only be implemented by the Superintendent and is occasionally (not too often) altered by someone up the chain of command.

Superintendent’s Disciplinary Committee

If the potential penalty includes a suspension in excess of 30 days, demotion, or dismissal (termination), then the hearings are conducted together by a Disciplinary Committee. A Superintendent’s Disciplinary Committee is chaired by the accused officer’s Bureau Chief. Two other Bureau Chiefs will fill out the three-member committee. At that hearing the accused officer is given the opportunity to explain why the charges should not be sustained, as well as the opportunity to offer mitigating factors that might influence the disposition or penalty. It is possible for an allegation which has relatively minor potential penalties to be heard via Superintendent’s Disciplinary Committee if there is another accused officer with potentially severe penalties.

Disciplinary Letters

The Louisiana Constitution requires that any disciplinary action taken against a permanent, classified civil service employee be with “cause expressed in writing.” As such, the disciplinary process is not completed until either the Superintendent signs off on dispositions of Not Sustained, Exonerated or Unfounded, or the accused officer is issued a disciplinary letter from the Superintendent. If the accused officer is dismissed (terminated), then the accused officer will be given the disciplinary letter the same day. If there is any other penalty assessed other than termination, then the accused officer will be required to sign for a disciplinary letter some time later. It could be 6 months later or longer. The disciplinary letter will indicate when the imposed discipline must be served. Since the disciplinary letter constitutes the end of the disciplinary process, any appeals to the Civil Service Commission must follow issuance of the letter. An accused officer has 30 days from the date typed on top of the disciplinary letter to file an appeal. Since the Civil Service Commission has original and sole jurisdiction over these matters, disciplinary actions taken in accordance with Civil Service Rule IX can only be appealed to the Civil Service Commission. The disciplinary letter further serves to limit any subsequent proceedings to the grounds specified in the letter.

As you can see, there is a lot to the disciplinary process. For FOP members who do not deal with the disciplinary process every day, it can be a lot to take in. Most officers simply aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of the process because they don’t often have to interact with it. In addition, it has been my experience that most officers who are quick to explain how the system works provide as much misinformation as they do quality information. Fortunately, the FOP provides attorneys to help its members navigate the tricky waters of the disciplinary process. Pick up the phone and call. That’s all you have to do and I will be more than happy to help.

Next time… Critical Incidents and Criminal Investigations.