First, and foremost, if you are a commissioned law enforcement officer and you do not belong to the Fraternal Order of Police and the FOP’s Legal Defense Plan, you should arrange to join at your earliest opportunity. The FOP’s Legal Defense Plan is, by far, the best legal plan available for police officers. A description of the FOP’s Legal Defense Plan can be found by clicking here.
The most important thing to do when you learn that you are the subject of an investigation by your employer is to call your trusted FOP attorney. If you do not have an FOP attorney, you can call me (Donovan Livaccari) and I will try to help get you the best representative considering your circumstances.. There is also a list of approved counsel at http://www.fop.net. Administrative cases for the New Orleans Police Department are a little different. You should definitely call me for NOPD administrative investigations.
Should you call if it is a straight forward case that was recorded on BWC? Yes.
Should you call if you are just a witness? Yes.
Should you call if you know for sure you will be sustained? Absolutely yes.
Should you call if you were told there was no need to call? Certainly.
What if you were told the case would be exonerated or unfounded? Yep.
Officers might only deal with their agency’s disciplinary system once in their careers. It is not a part of agency operations that officers are particularly familiar with. Even officers who may consider themselves veterans of the disciplinary system are usually not thoroughly familiar with the procedures applicable to internal investigations.
The FOP also has a benefit available to its members called the Salary Reimbursement Option (SRO). The SRO allows an officer who is not going to appeal a suspension to recoup some, if not all, of what was lost due to the suspension. For example, let’s suppose you got a 1-day suspension for missing court. After discussing the pros and cons of appealing this suspension with your FOP attorney, you decide that an appeal would be a waste of time — you know you were properly subpoenaed on a case you worked on, you missed court, and there are no Police Officer Bill of Rights issues. You and your attorney conclude that the chances of success on appeal are slim, at best. The Salary Reimbursement Option will reimburse you for the 1 day of salary you lost because of the suspension. The SRO rules require that the FOP member be represented by one of the FOP attorneys during the investigation.
The FOP’s Legal Defense Plan allows its members to hire a professional to assist them with a stressful situation that they are probably not completely familiar with. In fact, there is as much misinformation going around regarding the disciplinary process as there is good information, if not more. I have been doing this work as a full time job since I left NOPD in 2008. That 14 years of experience as a full time job. I also worked on disciplinary cases at NOPD for the 4 years between my graduation from law school and my retirement from NOPD.
The fact is that as an FOP member, you are very likely to belong to the FOP’s Legal Defense Plan. Throughout the State of Louisiana, the FOP’s Legal Defense Plan members can sleep a little better knowing that representation is just a phone call away. I haven’t mentioned criminal investigations or civil actions yet, but representation in those matters is also just a phone call away. If you have any questions, feel free to give me a call.
Sometimes witness officers become accused officers. Sometimes cases that are clearly unfounded become sustained for a different reason. These are all good reasons to pick up the phone and call. You don’t have to worry about how busy I am or whether the investigation is worthy of representation. As a member of FOP’s Legal Defense Plan, you are entitled to representation and I am happy to provide it. In addition, calling for representation keeps your options available for things like SRO or appeal. Make the call. If you don’t have my number, ask in roll call. It won’t be hard to find. Just make the call.