NOFD Promotion Case and New Orleans Civil Service Rules

There has been a bit of talk lately about “Astroturfing.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the idea of astroturfing, it is when advocates for a certain issue or matter solicit people who aren’t really interested in the issue to appear and give the appearance that there is more support for or opposition the issue at hand. It recently came to light with regard to Entergy’s use of paid actors to appear before the New Orleans City Council to advocate for a new Entergy power plant. The article linked here is about the City Council investigating the use of paid actors by Entergy.

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with the New Orleans Civil Service Commission’s recent decision about whether the New Orleans Fire Department complied with the Civil Service Rules and the Louisiana Constitution. This decision by the Civil Service Commission was in response to the NOFD’s “appeal” of the New Orleans Personnel Director’s decision in appeals by NOFD employees who took the Captain’s test and felt as though they had been improperly passed over for promotion pursuant to Civil Service Rule VI, Sec. 6.1. The Civil Service Commission couldn’t actually act in an appellate capacity, so they conducted an investigation of the NOFD promotions and whether those promotions complied with Civil Service Rules and the Louisiana Constitution. So, the Civil Service Commission’s decision did not overrule the Personnel Director’s decision.

The Personnel Director’s decision held that the NOFD botched promotions in almost every conceivable way. She held that NOFD violated Civil Service Rule VI, Sec. 2.1, 2.3, and 3.1. The Personnel Director also held that NOFD violated the EEOC’s Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures. The Personnel Director went on to recommend that some of the people passed over should be promoted and that the rules should be modified to prevent the types of overreaches by the NOFD.

The Civil Service Commission tried their best to decide that the NOFD did nothing wrong. However, given the facts, that was impossible. So, the Civil Service Commission’s decision held that NOFD complied with the Civil Service Rules but they did not comply with the requirements of Louisiana Constitution Art. X, Sec. 7, which requires that promotions be made after consideration of merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service, as ascertained by examination, which should be competitive. They concluded that since so much time passed between filing appeals and the decisions that followed that there wasn’t much they could do except pledge to put safeguards in place to prevent this from happening again.

I know there is still no connection to astroturfing. Here are my thoughts on that: The Civil Service Commission goes out of its way to cite a number of individuals and groups who testified in support of the Great Place to Work Initiative (GPTWI) when it was being discussed before being passed. For those who don’t know, GPTWI is where we lost some protections like the rule of 3 as it pertains to promotions. I suggest that GPTWI is where we lost competitive promotions in the City of New Orleans. It is also where many city employees lost all faith in the overall fairness and transparency of the promotional process. Anyway, the decision cites Andy Kopplin, who was CAO at the time, Dr. Charlotte Parent, the Director of the Department of Health at the time, as well as NOFD Superintendent Timothy McConnell, and other Mayoral appointees. The decision also cites the Bureau of Governmental Research and Bright Moments — more cheerleaders for former Mayor Landrieu.

When the public comments on the GPTWI began, it was quickly obvious that the Civil Service Commission’s meeting room would be insufficient to hold the people who wanted to comment on the proposed rule changes. The Commission moved the meeting to the City Council Chambers to accommodate the larger-than-average audience. The first day in the City Council Chambers didn’t disappoint. The Chambers were full of employees and former employees who were lined up to speak out against the proposed rule changes. You could count the number of people speaking in favor of the GPTWI on one hand and those people clearly had an incentive to speak up — they held positions appointed by the Mayor.

It was pretty obvious that some phone calls were made after the poor showing on day 1 in the Chambers. On day 2, a few more people showed up to testify in favor of GPTWI. The Bureau of Governmental Research and a few other groups, or at least some leaders from those groups, came to testify in favor of the GPTWI.

This is just another form of astroturfing. The Mayor lined up people who were indebted to him in one fashion or another and solicited their support for an issue they had little to no real interest in. These folks testified before the Commission and gave media interviews in support of Mayor Landrieu’s initiative. My guess is that if the records have not already been destroyed that a public records request would probably reveal emails, phone calls, and meetings with the folks that appeared in favor of the initiative soliciting their appearance. The most disturbing part of all this is that after overwhelming comment in opposition to the GPTWI combined with the lackluster commitment shown by those who actually testified in favor of the rule changes, the Civil Service Commission still voted to enact the “reforms” with little, if any, discussion. The only difference between this type of astroturfing and the type of astroturfing used by Entergy is that Landrieu’s people only needed to give the appearance of influencing the Commissioners. The real influencing had already been done.

I expect to see a decision in the NOPD promotion appeals soon. It should be close to the NOFD decision. The only real way to remedy this problem is to change the Rules. A change reinstating the Rule of 3 and the banding system in use before GPTWI would restore some confidence in the promotional system in New Orleans. More importantly, it would protect our public servants, and the public, from the favoritism, discrimination, political interference, etc. that are the inevitable consequence of giving each appointing authority an unlimited amount of discretion.

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Help is a Phone Call Away #FOPLegal

90% of active NOPD officers are members of the Crescent City Lodge of the Fratetnal Order of Police. Crescent City Lodge members are also enrolled in the FOP Legal Defense Plan. The Legal Defense Plan provides its members with legal protection in criminal, administrative, and civil matters. Administrative matters are most common.

I was a member of the NOPD from 1993 to 2008. I graduated from law school in 2004. Also in 2004, the Crescent City Lodge was in a rebuilding phase which would lead to it becoming the largest representative organization for officers of the New Orleans Police Department. Being an officer, FOP member, and recent law school graduate, I was approached by Lt. Henry Dean, who was president at the time, and Sgt Jimmy Gallagher about the legal services offered to members. We discussed creating a position called Employee Representative which would be both an arm of the legal plan and a way to address other employment issues experienced by members that wouldn’t be part of the legal plan. The FOP was, and still is, dedicated to providing its members with the best possible legal defense benefit. In 2008, I began representing officers full time. That was nearly 10 years ago. All of that is to say that my experience with the NOPD, NOPD Policies and Procedures, Civil Service, appeals, and the FOP work to the advantage of Crescent City Lodge members.

The disciplinary system is part of the job that officers don’t interact with regularly. For that reason, it is beneficial to have a resource available to guide members through that process. The Legal Plan attorneys provide that service to our members.

Here are some basic guidelines;

  • Nothing is too unimportant to call.
  • We (the attorneys) are not too busy to talk to you about minor investigations.
  • You should call about negotiated settlements – you could still be eligible for the FOP’s salary reimbursement option.
  • Don’t resign.
  • If someone is talking to you about resigning because of an alleged disciplinary infraction, you should be represented. You should probably call if anyone is telling you to resign for any reason.
  • Once you resign, you lose any legal protection you may have had through Civil Service.
  • You should call if you did what you are accused of. You are eligible for the FOP’s salary reimbursement option only if you are represented by an FOP attorney during the course of the investigation (calling two months after you pick up the disciplinary letter is insufficient).
  • You should call even if you are being interviewed “just as a witness.” Witnesses can become accused officers too.
  • You should call if you get an email from Civil Service about the Department’s request for an extension of time.
  • You should call if you have any questions about when you should call.

The FOP Legal Defense Plan is designed to provide FOP members with the best possible representation when you need it. However, we don’t know you need it until you call. Also, calling after you have resigned does not leave you with any real, viable options.

2017 in Review

At the beginning of the year, I like to review and compare the prior year’s activity with other years. In addition, since there have been so many new hires at NOPD, it always helps to give some context to the system that most officers don’t come into contact with often enough to be familiar with.

The FOP continues to provide the best legal assistance for law enforcement officers through its Legal Defense Plan. The Legal Defense Plan offers its members legal representation for any administrative disciplinary proceeding, civil defense resulting from on-the-job actions, and criminal allegations. There is no judgment involved. If a member requests legal services, they get it.

There is no situation which is too big or too small. The Legal Plan is set up to be able to handle situations that garner national attention. At the same time, we recognize how much law enforcement officers value their service record and we treat the most minor of circumstances with the same attention.

It is most beneficial to everyone when an officer who finds themselves involved in any way in one of the covered types of events contacts us as early as possible. I got a call from someone recently who had resigned under pressure to do so and felt like it shouldn’t have gone that way. I can’t argue with that – I don’t think anyone should be pressured into resigning without at least having the opportunity to meet with counsel. However, this person didn’t call until after he had resigned. As much as I would have loved to be able to help, the act of resigning eliminates almost every avenue of redress. So, call early and stay in touch.

My brother-in-Law, Corey Lloyd, was admitted to the Louisiana Bar in 2017. He had been helping me with Civil Service appeals while he was in law school. Since he is now a certified member of the Bar, he is now available to assist in situations which call for more than one attorney or when calendar conflicts prevent me from being somewhere. It is always nice to have another attorney committed to helping FOP members. He has also been helping FOP members with Family Law issues. The FOP offers a $400 (4 hrs at $100/hr) benefit per year to each member for Family Law issues.

2017

In 2017, I represented 410 individual officers in one capacity of another. That is up a little from 2016’s 398 officers. For those 410 officers, I appeared with FOP members at:

  • 103 disciplinary hearings (up from 83 in 2016)
  • 251 Statements (up from 228 in 2016)
  • 102 Civil Service Extension Request Hearings
  • 17 Accident Review Board Hearings (down from 36 in 2016)
  • 13 Civil Service Appeal Hearings (down from 23 in 2016)
  • 2 Officer Involved Shootings

In addition, I assisted FOP members with:

  • 85 Notary Service
  • 31 Personal Legal Needs
  • 10 Negotiated Settlements

While it appears that complaints were down a little from 2016-2017, it was still a busy year. Improvements were made to the disciplinary system in the penalty matrix and the use of BWC’s to clear complaints. Civil Service appeal hearings are down primarily because more Civil Service appeals were settled amicably before a hearing was necessary. The Personal Legal category refers to legal needs of members that are not covered by the Legal Defense Plan. The FOP offers each member a benefit of 2 hours of legal services per year for things outside of the Legal Defense Plan. This might include wills, living wills, successions, etc. It is separate from the Family Law benefit. Notary services are available to FOP members at no cost. I also continue to serve as Employee Representative for Crescent City Lodge members, helping them to address almost any employment related issues with NOPD.

At Livaccari Law, we also represent officers who have been involved in automobile or motorcycle accidents on a regular basis. My father, Tony Livaccari, heads up that aspect of the practice with more than 30 years of experience. Anyone who has worked with Tony knows that he looks out for FOP members.

I cannot stress enough the importance of picking up the phone and calling. I will respond to the scene of officer involved shootings. We can’t help when we don’t know a member is in need of help. In addition, as noted above, sometimes things happen which preclude our helping in any meaningful way. So, as I stated above, call early on. Nothing is too trivial and I’m not too busy to talk, even if I have to call you back – you can always text.

As I have stated numerous times, I feel as though I am blessed to be able to represent FOP members. I was admitted to the Louisiana Bar after serving 11 years with NOPD. I started representing law enforcement officers, primarily in New Orleans, in 2008 when I retired from NOPD. I still spend the majority of my time representing NOPD members. I do represent FOP members in other jurisdictions in Louisiana and do work for both the Crescent City Lodge and the Louisiana State Lodge. I look forward to doing more of the same in 2018. Additionally, the addition of Corey Lloyd to available counsel will make it easier to do this job better. So, thank you to the FOP Crescent City Lodge, particularly Jimmy Gallagher, who got me involved with the FOP back in 2004. Thanks to Darrell Basco, President of the Louisiana FOP, for allowing me to represent the over 6,000 FOP members in Louisiana. Finally, thanks to you, the FOP members for keeping me on your speed dial.

Assessment Center Prep

The Fraternal Order of Police will be having two classroom training dates to help members of the NOPD prepare for the December 20, 2017 Sergeants Exam Assessment Center.

On December 9 and December 16, 2016, NOPD Commander Louie Dabdoub will be teaching his successful assessment center methodology on behalf of the FOP.

The December 9 class will be held at the NOPD Academy and will begin at 3:00 pm.

The December 16 class will be held at Lakeview Presbyterian Church, located at 5914 Canal Blvd. and will begin at 3:00 pm.

It is likely that both of these classes will last several hours.

Since the assessment center is just a few weeks ago, we decided to post a video of the introductory lecture here for officers to review. Download the two-page method steps here. You will need it.

Feel free to watch these videos as many times as you need. At the classroom sessions, Commander Dabdoub will apply these steps to actual scenarios and give feedback on answers given by the class.

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

Click here to download the Civil Service Department’s NOPD Sergeant Work-Sample Test.

NOPD Sergeants Exam Multiple Choice Study Resources

http://www.fopno.com/news/whats-new/nopd-sergeant-s-exam-prep-multiple-choice-test

http://www.fopno.com/news/whats-new/additional-sergeants-exam-materials

@FOPNO Members – Personnel Jackets

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 Sewerage & Water Board, the New Orleans Civil Service Commission, and the Media Attention

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

#NOPD 2017 Pay Plan Initiative

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:

  1. How much time in grade will be required for Senior P/O? I believe the answer will end up being 3-4 years.
  2. 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.
  3. Will the minimum requirements for Police Sergeant change? I don’t think so.
  4. 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).

Current NOPD Issues: Negotiated Settlements, Education in Lieu of Discipline, and Discipline in the Consent Decree

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.

NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENTS

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.