I know many of my friends who work for the New Orleans Police Department have questions about the newly announced CAO Policy Memorandum No. 146 that was distributed at the end of last week. I have questions also and I will share the answers to those questions as soon as I can.
CAO Policy Memorandum No. 146 essentially says effective August 30, 2021, no city employee will be allowed to report to a city-owned worksite unless one of the following two conditions is met:
the employee is fully vaccinated. The policy says an employee is fully vaccinated once 14 days has passed after receiving the second of a two-shot vaccine or the one-shot vaccine. Or
the employee has taken two negative tests in the week. Tests must be four days apart. Tests must either be taken in front of a supervisor or the results are time stamped with the employee’s name. Antigen or PCR tests are acceptable.
A worksite is defined as a place where an employee is performing work on behalf of the city and can reasonably be expected to come within 6 feet of other city employees or members of the public.
That is the easy part. There are other questions that prove to be a bit more difficult. How will this be enforced? What will happen if an employee is sent home? How will the employee be carried in payroll? How does an employee register a religious objection? What if an employee has a medical objection? I am working on getting answers to those questions and I will be happy to share them with you all as soon as I can.
Candidates who position improved have negative numbers in the category “How many places did they move?” Candidates who position decreased have a positive number in that category. The biggest move up the list was 27 positions. The biggest move down the list was 30 positions. Candidates whose position on the list improved moved up 9 spots on average. Candidates whose position on the list moved down did so by 11.6 positions.
The Louisiana Constitution addresses how appointments to classified positions are made. I discussed what the Constitution says here. My opinion is that legal action is a possibility. Mayor Landrieu’s administration declared the Civil Service test “falsely objective,” but the new categories being used to analyze candidates for promotion are more falsely objective than the test could ever be. For example, supervisors who completed performance evaluations for candidates brought their own preconceptions, biases, and personal feelings into the mix. Some candidates only worked for the supervisor that completed the candidate’s performance evaluation for a short period of time. For a candidate’s disciplinary history, if a candidate had 1 or 2 sustained complaints at a level A or B, then that candidate got a “Medium” score. If a candidate had a sustained C violation, then the candidate got a “Low” score. They looked at each officer’s disciplinary history for the 5 years preceding the date of the Promotion Committee’s review. The violation Instructions from an Authoritative Source can be a level A, B, or C violation. The date of the Promotion Committee’s review could also be important. People miss deadlines by a day or two every time there is a deadline to miss. The rubric the Promotion Committee used can be found here.
The Fraternal Order of Police Crescent City Lodge #2 challenged the constitutionality of the Great Place to Work Initiative rules on promotions when they were first adopted. Unfortunately, the court found that the rules were not unconstitutional on their face. In other words, the rules could be applied in a constitutional manner. I am expecting to receive additional information that should shed more light on the issue at hand. In the meantime, I encourage all candidates who did not get the score they thought they should have gotten to ask for the grounds of the score. Go to PIB and request a copy of short forms. Call me and we can discuss options.
While promotions to sergeant loomed, I got more calls about this article where Mayor Cantrell announced that all city employees and contractors had to be vaccinated than anything else on Friday, July 30, 2021. The questions have been one of the following two questions: (1) Can they make me get the vaccination? or (2) Can I get a religious exception?
Can they make me get the vaccination?
Can they hold an employee down and stick a needle in his or her arm? No. Without consent, that would be a battery. The real question is “Can they coerce me into getting vaccination?” The answer? Maybe. Yes.
There has been no written policy on mandatory vaccinations promulgated that I am aware of. I imagine there will be a policy forthcoming. It will be imperative to see the policy in order to be able to analyze the requirements. For example, if the policy states that unvaccinated employees will have to wear a mask, engage in social distancing, and get tested for COVID-19 at regular intervals, that would likely be reasonable. If unvaccinated city employees are terminated from permanent, classified positions, that would be much more severe. My guess is that might be too severe. Again, without a policy to examine, it is difficult to analyze.
The courts have allowed mandatory vaccinations in the past. Generally, the analysis will probably be the degree of intrusion versus the legitimate public interest. As of now, the courts in other jurisdictions have been finding in favor of mandatory vaccinations.
The vaccinations are against my religious beliefs. Can they make me get the vaccination?
Again, there is not a whole lot of precedent in this area. However, freedom of religion is one of our country’s most closely held fundamental beliefs. It is first in the Bill of Rights found in the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. There can be no law restricting the free exercise of religion.
Religious exceptions to vaccination requirements for public employees will almost certainly exist. However, these exceptions will probably be granted conservatively. My guess is that the reason given will have to be reasonable in light of the religion espoused by the employee. I doubt that an employee will be able to start his or her own religion that does not believe in vaccines.
It is really impossible to analyze mandatory vaccinations for public employees in New Orleans right now. Once policies are provided in writing, it will be more possible to provide a useful analysis. Until then, we have limited precedent in other jurisdictions which appear to trend toward allowing mandatory vaccinations.
When Michael Harrison was Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, the Mayor’s Innovation Department at City Hall worked with Chief Harrison to come up with a new plan designed to bring the Civil Service promotion system into “modern times.” Mayor Landrieu had already managed to ditch the banded lists the New Orleans Police Department had been using successfully for years. The banded lists were the result of a consent decree in a federal discrimination complaint. So, convinced that we no longer needed protections from discrimination, favoritism, and whatever ism’s you can come up with, Mayor Landrieu branded the Civil Service Department’s exam as “falsely objective” and replaced all of the Civil Service Commissioners until the Commission agreed with him. Thus we have the Great Place to Work Initiative.
In the past 24 hours, I have heard numerous people say that they did not understand how the NOPD is switching the list around when that was the purview of the Civil Service Department. This is not exactly true. The Civil Service Department is responsible for administering the test and preparing a list of eligible candidates. The Appointing Authority is responsible for selecting candidates for promotion. The Superintendent of Police is the Appointing Authority for the New Orleans Police Department. The Civil Service Rules, which have the force and effect of law, allow for selection of anyone who passed the exam. Of course, they have to be selected pursuant to La. Const. Art. 10, Sec. 7, which states that appointments have to be made “under a general system based upon merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service…”
When Michael Harrison was Superintendent, he just chose whoever he wanted from the list of eligibles, regardless of their position on the list. I filed “appeals” pursuant to Civil Service Rule VI, Sec. 6.1 on behalf of three candidates for Police Lieutenant who had been passed over for promotion and I was able to make the case that the people that had been promoted ahead of my three candidates had not be selected based upon merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service. Shortly thereafter, Chief Harrison left for Baltimore and Shaun Ferguson was selected to replace him. Chief Ferguson decided he was going to make promotions by going down the Civil Service list in order. Not to be undone, the Innovation Squad finally convinced the CAO to enact a policy that would guide promotions in the New Orleans Police Department. That policy can be found in CAO Policy Memo 143(R). The application of CAO Policy Memo 143(R) is how the Civil Service list has become a new, re-ordered list.
Is this legal?
Maybe. La. Const. Art. X, Sec. 7 states “The number (of candidates) 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.” I believe this means that there has to be three candidates certified unless there is more than one position to be filled, in which case there will be more than three candidates certified — there will be one additional candidate certified per extra position to be filled. Apparently, I am in the minority in my belief. The Innovation Squad believes that where this line states the number of candidates to be certified “shall not be less than three” means three candidates can be certified or 103 candidates can be certified.
Certification of candidates is the Civil Service Department’s job as it relates to promotions. The Appointing Authority selects candidates from those that are certified by the Personnel Director (Civil Service Department).
So, if “the number to be certified shall not be less than three” means three or 103, then the Personnel Director can certify everyone who passed the test and then it is up to the Appointing Authority to make promotions in a constitutional manner (on the basis of merit, efficiency, fitness, and length of service). The Innovation Squad decided that Appointing Authorities throughout the City would certainly be able to select candidates for promotion in a constitutional manner. They remained undeterred by the clear evidence that Chief Harrison’s administration did not even try to make constitutional promotions. Harrison’s administration just picked whoever they wanted for reasons absolutely nobody could explain (at least not under oath at the Civil Service evidentiary hearing).
CAO Policy Memorandum 143(R) was introduced because they definitely were not going to return to the banded lists that were put into place to deter discrimination, favoritism, nepotism, and the other ism’s. In addition to the Innovation Unit, the Business Council of New Orleans, led by Coleman D. Ridley, Jr., a native of Newport News, Virginia, also thought they knew best how to make promotions within the New Orleans Police Department. Why the Business Council is interested in how the NOPD makes promotions is beyond me. I really don’t understand why the CAO wants to micromanage promotions in the NOPD either. This is not a good look on either the CAO or the Business Council.
My new position on the list is unacceptable. What can I do?
When Walter Powers, Claude Schlesinger, and I met with Chief Ferguson, the Deputy Chiefs, the Chief of Staff, and the City Attorneys advising them on this topic, Chief Ferguson stated that he would entertain anyone who believes that their new ranking was the result of some type of mistake. So, that could be the first thing to do. You can contact the Superintendent’s Office and tell them that you think there has been a mistake and you would like to discuss it with whoever is handling those complaints.
Once promotions are made, you may be able to use Civil Service Rule VI, Sec. 6.1 to challenge being skipped for someone else. However, application of that rule may or may not lead to a better result. Use of Rule VI, Sec. 6.1 is not an option until after promotion have actually been made from the list and you have actually been passed over.
At the meeting mentioned above a couple of weeks ago, Chief Ferguson stated in no uncertain terms that he was committed to transparency. He said that the NOPD would provide me with whatever documentation I wanted pending an official request. Well, I submitted an official request for all of the Promotion Committee documentation a couple of days ago. I received a reply to that request from the Chief of Staff who indicated that he was in the process of assembling the requested documentation. Once I have all that documentation, it should be clearer what process was used to move some candidates 20-30 positions from their ranking on the Civil Service list to make a new order to the Sergeants List.
Once all the requested information is received, we will be in a better position to determine what, if anything, can be done about how the list was shaken up.
If you can, shoot me an email that says what your new place is on the Sergeants List. I will be keeping a close eye on everything that transpires with regard to the promotions to Police Sergeant.
Save the below video for later. As you can see, the video is marked as age restricted and can only be viewed on YouTube where you can assert that you are old enough to watch. The video is a news report by WWL Investigative Reporter Mike Perlstein. You have probably already seen it. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to watch it.
I pride myself on staying in touch with the rank and file officers of the New Orleans Police Department. I talk to officers every single day in one way or another. 90% of NOPD officers are members of the Fraternal Order of Police. So, I know that I will be addressing FOP members, no matter who I am speaking to.
Recently, I happened to be at a district station at roll call time. As I stated above, I try to talk to officers at every opportunity. Since roll call was just getting started, I joined the group of officers getting ready to start their tour of duty. As usual, I popped in, made sure everyone knew who I was, and asked if there was anything in particular they wanted to talk about. That particular day, they were concerned about recent revisions to the NOPD policy on searches and seizures. I bring this up as a good example of the type of “no win situation” I referred to in Mike Perlstein’s story.
In particular, officers were worried about the addition of paragraph 58 of Chapter 1.2.4 on Search and Seizure. This addition is found in the section addressing strip searches. One of the officers had recently attended in service training and had been told that the new policy makes any search that touches the skin of the person searched a strip search. Strip searches are a no-win situation at NOPD.
First, I would refer to the definition of Strip Search found in the policy. A Strip Search is defined as “any search of a person that includes the remove all or rearrangement of some or all clothing to permit visual inspection of the exterior of the suspect’s groin/genital area, buttocks, female breasts, or undergarments covering these areas.” The intent to conduct a visual inspection seems to be a necessary element of a strip search, but my personal experience is that no visual inspection is necessary in any form, Searches where officers have intentionally avoided any possibility of a visual inspection have been declared strip searches.
Paragraph 62 of the policy outlines the steps that officers have to take in order to conduct a strip search. As you can see, there are numerous steps that would be time consuming. That is fine because strip searches are rare and officers should have to dot every i and cross every t when conducting a strip search. One way or another, conducting strip searches regularly is not practical or necessary. Paragraph 58 of the policy potentially changes all that.
Under the section heading of Strip Search, paragraph 58 states that “Unless the requirements for a strip search outlined below are met (paragraph 62), officer may not: (a) reach inside outer clothing and touch skin or underwear, especially in the groin, genital, and buttock/anal region; (b) manipulate items inside outer clothing which may be in direct contact with skin especially in the groin, genital, and buttock/anal region to recover an item or move them into open view; or (c) require someone to remove or rearrange some or all clothing to permit visual inspection of a person’s groin/genital area, buttocks, female breasts, or undergarments covering those areas.”
First, I think the policy already covered part c of paragraph 58. The other two parts, a and b above, make routine searches against policy. These are the types of searches that officers conduct every day. The searches that are required by policy. There is simply no way that officers will be able to comply with the requirements of paragraph 62 every time they have to conduct a search subsequent to arrest before placing an arrested subject in a car for transport. Sometimes arrested subjects have to be placed in the car more than once. For example, if an arrested subject has to be taken to the hospital before going to the lock up, that arrested subject would have to be searched before the trip to the hospital and then again before the trip to the lockup. The waistband is one of the first places officers are taught to search. That however would require officers to “reach inside outer clothing and touch skin or underwear…” So, to conduct routine searches before placing an arrested subject in the rear of a police car, officers have to (1) obtain written authorization from his or her supervisor; (2) be properly trained in strip searches; (3) have and use personal protective equipment; (4) perform the search under conditions that provide privacy from all but those authorized to conduct the search – wait, what? The arrested subject has to be transported to a private area before being able to conduct the search that allows them to be transported in a police car? If that isn’t a no-win situation, I don’t know what one is.
Of course, the policy won’t be enforced unless there is some other reason to enforce it. If there is a complaint or someone happens to watch the body worn video, then it will become an issue. Otherwise, officers will have to continue conducting searches. If they stop conducting searches, officers will get hurt. I will again refer to Officer Holloway. It will happen again.
At the roll call I attended, I told officers to do what they had to do to get home safely at the end of the day. Officers should not have to wonder whether or not they can do something that is designed to protect them. The changes to this policy create more confusion and uncertainty. The searches described in paragraph 58 do not necessarily meet the definition of a strip search. However, they are found in the strip search section. When do these instructions apply? Beats me. What I do know is that the number 1 rule is to make it home safely. Make it home safely. If you get dinged for making it home safely, I will be there with you to fight the good fight. The FOP will also be there with you to fight the good fight.
The Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police is working on putting together a prep class for the upcoming NOPD Captain’s Exam. That being said, time is short. We expect the test to be given in August of this year, which doesn’t leave us much time to schedule prep classes. We will certainly share the information with everyone once the dates and locations are cemented. In the meantime, below are videos created with Capt. Louis Dabdoub. Louie’s method is tried and true and will benefit anyone who is able to put his method to use. Each time NOPD has given a promotion exam and we have arranged for Louie to give this class, I have compared the list of attendees with the promotional register. I don’t have a solid statistical survey that could be introduced in court or anything, but I can assure you that the vast majority of people who took Louie’s class finished on the top of each list. In other words, there were only 2 or 3 people in the top 25 of each list who did not attend Louie’s lectures.
The following went out via NOPDALL on April 6, 2021:
Subject: NOPD Short Forms
Members of the Department,
IAPro is now able to generate NOPD Short Forms. Attached is a “Request for Public Integrity Bureau Short Form” (NOPD Form 355), please complete the form in its entirety and send a scanned copy to email@example.com. The request will be completed within 48 hours after receiving the emailed request (excluding weekends and holidays).
*Any incomplete forms will delay the request.
Feel free to contact me with any question or concern.
I recommend checking you short form periodically to make sure you are aware of what it says and to make sure it is accurate. You certainly need to check your short form if you are considering leaving NOPD. The last thing you need is to inadvertently leave while “under investigation.” It happens more often than you imagine.
Call me if you have any questions about this or if you have any questions about your short form – sometimes they aren’t the easiest to interpret.
Legislators on the State and Federal levels clearly have qualified immunity in their crosshairs. Click here for info on Federal legislation from National FOP President Pat Yoes. There are other things the reformers are gunning for, but weakening qualified immunity for law enforcement officers seems to be a major goal. It is important to recognize that the “reforms” to qualified immunity will still apply to all other public officers as it has always been. In other words, the Legislators proposing and voting on this legislation will still be able to benefit from from qualified immunity, as will all other public officers exercising the discretionary functions of their office.
I would like to start by saying that Legislators are gunning for the wrong thing. Qualified immunity only relates to civil lawsuits alleging Constitutional violations. Qualified immunity does not apply to criminal matters.
In Louisiana, lawmakers have proposed that qualified immunity would not be available to law enforcement officers for any wrongful death or injury resulting from a use of force. In those cases, the trier of fact would have to decide if the use of force leading to the lawsuit was unreasonable. If the judge decides it is unreasonable, then the lawsuit would be allowed to continue.
Contrast that with the current way qualified immunity is applied. There is a two-prong test to determine if a public officer is entitled to qualified immunity: 1) Did the public officer’s actions actually constitute a violation of the plaintiff’s Constitutional rights? 2) Was the public officer on notice that his actions constituted a violation of someone’s Constitutional rights? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then qualified immunity does not apply. If the answer to either of those questions is no, then the lawsuit will be dismissed as to that public officer.
From the standpoint of law enforcement officers, the current application of qualified immunity serves to protect them from civil lawsuits in a profession that is dangerous and often leads to tense, rapidly evolving circumstances where the lives of law enforcement officers and civilians are in danger. A Tulane University Police Officer and Deputy Constable, Martinus Mitchum, was killed on February 26. 2021 when he intervened in a dispute over wearing a mask at a basketball game. Let that sink in. The shooter wanted to be allowed in the gym during a basketball game and was refused entry because he was not wearing a mask. When the interaction became contentious, Officer Mitchum stepped in to de-escalate the situation. In spite of Officer Mitchum’s efforts, the individual was so interested in not wearing a mask at the basketball game that he pulled a gun and shot and killed Officer Mitchum. It is a dangerous profession.
Other reform legislation includes bans in choke holds, bans on no-knock warrant service, and restrictions on the time of day warrants can be served. I don’t object to those efforts except to say that when someone’s life is in legitimate peril, all options should be on the table. Actually, this legislative efforts are much more reasonable than attacks on qualified immunity.
With regard to qualified immunity, I will point out that I am unaware of any insurance product that would provide liability insurance for law enforcement officers. Elimination of qualified immunity, even under restricted circumstances, would expose law enforcement officers to the same type of civil exposure that doctors are exposed to. As we all know, one reason we pay so much to see the doctor is because the doctor has to pay expensive insurance premiums. The problem is that I am unaware of any insurance product available to law enforcement officers and law enforcement salaries have historically been low.
Without qualified immunity, I think I would have to question the sanity of anyone choosing to work in law enforcement – at least a law enforcement agency without qualified immunity. In his monthly podcast, noted public safety attorney Will Aitchison said that taking a law enforcement job without qualified immunity should be the equivalent of failing the psych exam.
Legislators should be focusing on banning chokeholds. NOPD has banned chokeholds for years and it has had a good result. Changing qualified immunity will have unforeseen consequences that will damage law enforcement forever. Law enforcement officers are not the 1%. Law enforcement officers are blue collar workers who live next door to you. Their kids go to school with your kids. They are much more likely to be able to relate with you than with the 1%. In addition, law enforcement officers are not the ones setting policy within police departments. Those policies are being set and implemented by elected officials and people appointed by those elected officials. When the Dept. of Justice sought to implement a consent decree in New Orleans, the consent decree did not contain mandates for each individual police officer. The consent decree contains mandates for the administration. That is because the administration is responsible for how law enforcement officers perform their jobs.
I am not sure changing qualified immunity for law enforcement officers only will be Constitutional. We are entitled to equal treatment under the law. One way or another, legislators need to keep their eye on the ball and prop up law enforcement so that the profession can best serve their respective communities. Legislators should NOT be taking actions that will forever damage law enforcement as a profession.
All law enforcement officers and those individuals supporting law enforcement should contact their elected officials and let them know that you do not support elimination of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers in any way. Emails, letters, and/or phone calls can be used to serve that purpose. Don’t be shy. This is extremely important.
We visit every NOPD Academy class and explain to them, to the best of our ability subject to time restraints, why the FOP’s Legal Defense Plan is not only necessary for today’s law enforcement professionals, but the best possible legal plan available. There are other legal plans that offer legal services, but none of those are specifically geared to law enforcement officers like the FOP’s Legal Defense Plan is. Furthermore, I can give you all a run down of the legal services I provided to FOP members in Louisiana, but I cannot speak for anyone else. In addition, my practice involves representing police officers. That is it. 100% of my legal practice is representing FOP members.
Being able to devote my entire practice to representing FOP members is a benefit to FOP members for a number of reasons. First of all, I am generally available on short notice. If I am not available for some reason, I can get things rescheduled. Devoting my entire practice to representing FOP members also allows me to be, and remain, well-versed in issues facing today’s law enforcement professionals. I do not know any other attorneys in Louisiana who can say they only represent police officers.
In 2020, I represented more than 400 individual FOP members in the following capacitates:
I responded personally to 6 officer-involved shooting scenes and represented 20 police officers involved in officer-involved shootings in Louisiana, including interviews and statements with investigators. Most of these were in New Orleans, but there were several in other jurisdictions in southwest Louisiana.
2020 has been an odd year. I know I am not saying anything people do not already know. There were fewer appeals to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, I am currently awaiting decisions from the 4th Circuit on the emergency rate of pay and one Civil Service appeal where the appeal was granted in part and denied in part by the Civil Service Commission (I won 45 of 80 suspension days and had to appeal for the other 35).
The FOP’s Legal Defense Plan is the only plan to offer the Salary Reimbursement Option. If you are represented by an FOP attorney and, after consulting with your FOP attorney you come to the conclusion that there is no point in appealing discipline, the FOP will pay the officer for up to 5 suspension days if they choose not to appeal. I assisted 27 NOPD officers with the Salary Reimbursement Option.
In New Orleans, the Crescent City Lodge provides members with free notary services. I provided notary services to 46 NOPD officers over the course of 2020. I also settled 16 Civil Service appeals with the City in lieu of proceeding with an appeal hearing. Those are 16 disciplinary actions rescinded or reduced for my clients.
I also had the opportunity to assist Louisiana FOP President Darrell Basco with his work on various committees in the Louisiana Legislature. I was called upon by the police reform committee to testify at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge about Louisiana’s Police Officer’s Bill of Rights.
Hopefully 2021 will look more like 2019 than 2020. One thing that is certain — The FOP Legal Defense Plan will be there for you when you need it. I will be there when you need me. I always have people tell me they don’t want to bother me with something minor or they don’t want to waste my time.
Nothing is a waste of my time. Nothing is unimportant. Don’t hesitate to call. It does not matter if you are an accused or a witness officer. You can call if you just have a question. I am here to help as much as I can. Furthermore, the FOP will be there for you.
Please note that my phone service now silences phone calls from numbers not in my contact book. I save phone numbers regularly. So, if we spoke on the phone previously, then I probably saved the number and that won’t be an issue. However, if you call and it goes to voicemail, please leave a message or send a text. I am not dodging anyone, but I can’t call anyone back if I don’t know who is calling.
I am looking forward to continuing to serve FOP members in 2021 and beyond. As I have said numerous times, I consider myself lucky to be able to be there for law enforcement officers and blessed to have the FOP Legal Defense Plan to use for that purpose.
If you haven’t read the prior article on Monday’s Civil Service Commission meeting, click here and read it. In that article, I composed 3 comment cards and encouraged everyone to email a comment card to CSNO@NOLA.GOV. You can use one of the comment cards I made, or write your own. Just make sure you do it. It is important, even though it is not likely that this Commission will deny the Administration’s request.
In this article, I have included 4 more comment cards for NOPD and NOFD employees to choose from.
Click here to download Comment 6. Comment 6 is for an NOPD employee willing to say that this may be the last straw and urges the Commission to do the right thing and look out for its employees.
Click here to download Comment 7. Comment 7 is for an NOFD employee willing to say that this may be the last straw and urges the Commission to do the right thing and look out for its employees.
The Civil Service Commission meeting starts the docket portion at 10:00 a.m. and the business meeting at 11:30 a.m on Monday. Comment cards must be submitted before then. Instructions for “attending” the virtual meeting can be found in yesterday’s article (Click Here).