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.

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The Standard for Use of Force

I have heard some talk recently about a need to re-visit the standard for determining whether a use of force by police officers is excessive.  This article in the New York Times written by Yale Law students illustrates the nature of the movement.  Here are some problems with the arguments presented in this article.

At the most basic level, the law in Louisiana does not give law enforcement any extra authority to use force against others except that La. C.Cr. P. Art. 220 provides:

A person shall submit peaceably to a lawful arrest. The person making a lawful arrest may use reasonable force to effect the arrest and detention, and also to overcome any resistance or threatened resistance of the person being arrested or detained.

It is the word “reasonable” which causes consternation for folks such as the authors of the above referenced N.Y. Times article.  Here, the reasonableness referred to is the degree or type of force.  Of course, the flip-side to this article is that people have the right to use reasonable force to resist an unlawful arrest.

In order for something to be “reasonable” it has to be in compliance with the law.  For that guidance, we look to La. R.S. 14:19 and La. R.S. 14:20.  It is important to note that La. R.S. 14:19 and La. R.S. 14:20 are not specifically directed toward law enforcement, but are the general rule that governs everyone within the boundaries of the State of Louisiana.

La. R.S. 14:19 reads as follows:

A. (1) The use of force or violence upon the person of another is justifiable under either of the following circumstances:
(a) When committed for the purpose of preventing a forcible offense against the person or a forcible offense or trespass against property in a person’s lawful possession, provided that the force or violence used must be reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent such offense.
(b)(i) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40) when the conflict began, against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person using the force or violence reasonably believes that the use of force or violence is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle.
(ii) The provisions of this Paragraph shall not apply when the person using the force or violence is engaged, at the time of the use of force or violence in the acquisition of, the distribution of, or possession of, with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance in violation of the provisions of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.
(2) The provisions of Paragraph (1) of this Section shall not apply where the force or violence results in a homicide.
B. For the purposes of this Section, there shall be a presumption that a person lawfully inside a dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle held a reasonable belief that the use of force or violence was necessary to prevent unlawful entry thereto, or to compel an unlawful intruder to leave the premises or motor vehicle, if both of the following occur:
(1) The person against whom the force or violence was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering or had unlawfully and forcibly entered the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle.
(2) The person who used force or violence knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry was occurring or had occurred.
C. A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using force or violence as provided for in this Section and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.
D. No finder of fact shall be permitted to consider the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not the person who used force or violence in defense of his person or property had a reasonable belief that force or violence was reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent a forcible offense or to prevent the unlawful entry.

Paragraph A(2) tells us that this does not apply if the force used results in a homicide.  For that we have to look to La. R.S. 14:20, which reads as follows:

A. A homicide is justifiable:
(1) When committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.
(2) When committed for the purpose of preventing a violent or forcible felony involving danger to life or of great bodily harm by one who reasonably believes that such an offense is about to be committed and that such action is necessary for its prevention. The circumstances must be sufficient to excite the fear of a reasonable person that there would be serious danger to his own life or person if he attempted to prevent the felony without the killing.
(3) When committed against a person whom one reasonably believes to be likely to use any unlawful force against a person present in a dwelling or a place of business, or when committed against a person whom one reasonably believes is attempting to use any unlawful force against a person present in a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), while committing or attempting to commit a burglary or robbery of such dwelling, business, or motor vehicle.
(4)(a) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40) when the conflict began, against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle.
(b) The provisions of this Paragraph shall not apply when the person committing the homicide is engaged, at the time of the homicide, in the acquisition of, the distribution of, or possession of, with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance in violation of the provisions of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.
B. For the purposes of this Section, there shall be a presumption that a person lawfully inside a dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle held a reasonable belief that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent unlawful entry thereto, or to compel an unlawful intruder to leave the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle when the conflict began, if both of the following occur:
(1) The person against whom deadly force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering or had unlawfully and forcibly entered the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle.
(2) The person who used deadly force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry was occurring or had occurred.
C. A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.
D. No finder of fact shall be permitted to consider the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not the person who used deadly force had a reasonable belief that deadly force was reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent a violent or forcible felony involving life or great bodily harm or to prevent the unlawful entry.

Again, I will point out that this is the standard that applies to all within the political boundaries of the State of Louisiana.

Specifically for law enforcement, we look to the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in the case of Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386.  Prior to Graham, the court used the test developed in Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, to determine if a use of force by law enforcement was constitutionally excessive.  The test in Johnson required that there be proof that the force was applied maliciously and sadistically to cause harm based on the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In Graham, the Court decided that the standard should be based on the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution instead of the 8th Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” inquiry is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.

Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 387, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 1867, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (U.S. 1989).

Folks such as the authors of the N.Y. Times article referenced above, suggest that the law should embody the DOJ’s necessity standard which states:

 

The necessity to use deadly force arises when all other available means of preventing imminent and grave danger to officers or other persons have failed or would be likely to fail.

I think this is an interesting argument, particularly in light of the fact not one officer involved shooting involving an FBI agent has ever been deemed excessive.  See this N.Y. Times article.

The Graham standard has served us well and it should not be disturbed.  If the Graham standard is turned into a necessity standard, I would recommend that everyone in law enforcement get out — unless you work for the FBI.

#NOPD Use of Force Update – Ch. 1.3

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This is a general review of NOPD policies on the use of force.  The Department should be providing use of force training and nothing contained herein should be considered to supplant any information provided in official training.  In fact, if anyone notes something in this article which is contrary to what is being taught in training, please let me know.

Chapter 1.3, titled Use of Force, will be effective on August 9, 2015 and will replace Policy/Procedure 300.

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Sample Force Statement #FOP #FOPNO #NOPD @fopno @louisianafop

FORCE STATEMENT

I have been ordered to write this Force Statement by Sgt. FIT Team. Completion of this Force Statement is also required by NOPD Operations Manual PR300.6.1. Had I not been ordered to draft this document, I would have asserted my right to remain silent as guaranteed by the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In addition, although I have not been advised as such, I am aware that LSA 40:2531(b)(5) makes administrative statements rendered in administrative investigations, such as this use of force investigation, inadmissible in any subsequent criminal proceedings. However, since this statement is being compelled and I would be fired for failing to comply with these orders, I am rendering the below involuntary statement with regard to the events of 01-01-2014 documented under NOPD Item # A-12345-14:

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Police attorney offers best practices tips to civil rights overseers

I am not so sure about this guy’s position on recording interviews, but it is interesting reading nonetheless.  Thanks to Lou Gaydosh for passing this along.

Police attorney offers best practices tips to civil rights overseers.

Critical Incident Quick Reference

What constitutes a critical incident?

Any sudden event involving a police officer that results in an immediate investigation with no advanced notice to the subject officer and potentially resulting in the arrest, suspension, or termination of the subject officer.

Examples:

  • Officer involved shootings
  • In-custody deaths
  • Use of force/weapons discharge (including less-than-lethal force)
  • Car accidents
  • Any allegation of duty-related criminal conduct

4 Things you NEVER do:

  1. NEVER give a voluntary statement
  2. NEVER take a polygraph
  3. NEVER give blood or urine
  4. NEVER talk to crisis response team, victim advocate, debriefing team, peer groups, or anyone unless you have a legally confidential relationship with that person.

Things you should always do when involved in a critical incident:

  • Secure the scene and preserve evidence
  • Notify the dispatcher and appropriate supervisor(s)
  • Notify EMS
  • Contact your FOP attorney and
  • REMAIN SILENT
Things you should always if you are an uninvolved officer at the scene of a critical incident:
  • Make sure the involved officer is OK
  • Assist involved officer in contacting FOP attorney
  • Stand by the involved officer until his/her representative/attorney arrives
  • Do NOT talk about the facts with the involved officer
  • Provide the representative/attorney with as much information as possible
  • Remind the involved officer to REMAIN SILENT

Source:  NFOP Labor Services