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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NOPD Accident Review Board

When you are behind the wheel of a vehicle for up to 8 or more hours a day, it is inevitable that, sooner or later, you will be involved in an automobile accident.  When you find yourself in an automobile accident driving a city vehicle, you can count on a few things.  You will have to notify your supervisor.  Car 17 will have to come take an accident report.  You will have to submit to an SAT4.  Your supervisor will have to complete a supervisor’s report of an accident.  The question is, will you have to go before the Accident Review Board as a result of the accident?

Reviewing accidents is a function of the NOPD’s Risk Management and Fleet Management efforts.  Car 17 reports are reviewed on a regular basis.  The initial determination made when reviewing an accident report is whether or not the officer is at fault in the accident.

If the officer is deemed not to be at fault in the accident, then Car 17 may be the last you hear about the accident unless you were injured and have a worker’s compensation or injured on duty claim.  If you are injured or think you may have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, you should contact one of the FOP attorneys about representation for the injuries sustained in the accident.  Your FOP attorneys can also advise and assist you with worker’s compensation or injured on duty claims.  If you are injured or think you may be injured, make sure your supervisor completes a First Report of Injury.

If you were at fault in the accident and you were injured, you should still make sure that your supervisor completes a First Report of Injury.  As long as you were acting in the course and scope of your employment, you will have worker’s compensation coverage regardless of your fault in the accident (with a few possible exceptions).

If you were at fault in the accident, your crash may be flagged for the Accident Review Board.  The Accident Review Board is a disciplinary hearing.  The Accident Review Board is normally composed of a Deputy Chief, the Commander of Traffic, the Commander of the Academy (or a Captain from the Academy), a District Commander, and another Commander from the Field Operations Bureau.

The Accident Review Board meets at irregular times, so it is difficult to predict when they might convene.  It is also difficult to predict how much time might elapse between your accident and when your accident will be before the Accident Review Board.  It usually takes several months to a year.

When you appear before the Accident Review Board, the Board will review the video of the crash, if any video exists.  If you were driving a car with a camera, chances are there will be video of the crash.  The video cameras are always recording and are triggered to save the recording upon impact.  Some minor impacts do not trigger the camera.

Generally, you will be given an opportunity to explain to the Board how the accident happened.  Keep in mind that by this time, there has been an accident report written, they have asked you to complete a voluntary statement about the accident, and your supervisor, who is also there at the Accident Review Board, has also written a Supervisor’s Report of an Accident.  You are ordered to participate in the Accident Review Board.  So, you do not have the option of remaining silent.  Therefore, any statements you make can not be used against you in a criminal proceeding, as directed by Garrity.  However, Garrity does not protect against actions in civil matters.  You should give a concise statement of the facts surrounding the accident.  You should include any mitigating factors that contributed to the accident.  You should also describe what police work or police action you were engaged in at the time, as well as how that police work or police action concluded, if you know.

Remember, if you are involved in an accident while engaged in a police action, you have an obligation to relay any pertinent information you may have to the dispatcher or other units involved and check on anyone who was potentially injured in the accident and secure emergency medical services if needed.  You should include this information in any statement to the Accident Review Board.

The FOP Legal Defense Plan will provide you with an attorney for the Accident Review Board.  Remember, members of Crescent City Lodge #2 must be represented by an FOP attorney to take advantage of the Salary Reimbursement Option (SRO).  You can either call an FOP attorney directly or you can contact Jim Gallagher (504-442-4050) if you are unsure of how to do that.

Accident Review Board penalties and appeals will be addressed in a subsequent posting.

Please be careful.  You can avoid the Accident Review Board by avoiding the accident.  Also, it may be a pain in the ass, but WEAR YOUR SEATBELT.