No Matter How Big Or Small The Discipline–We Fight All Unjust Disciplinary Actions

Many people would say that it is not worth fighting a two-day suspension – we disagree. Regardless of the level of discipline, if it is unjust, we will fight it. Most recently, the Inglewood Police Department imposed a 2-day suspension against a tenured officer who cited a citizen who was simply trying to take advantage of the system. Rather than commending the officer for his proper handling of the matter, the Department unjustly sacrificed the officer’s reputation in order to try to placate a meritless citizen complaint. Attorney Andrew M. Dawson represented Appellant during his administrative appeal.

In March of 2008, Appellant was a 5-year Field Training Officer with the Department. Appellant and his trainee attempted to stop a vehicle whose registration expired some two years earlier. Upon making contact with the driver, a pregnant female, it was discovered that the driver had an outstanding traffic warrant for her arrest. Based on her pregnancy, the officer instructed his trainee to not arrest her; however, the driver was instructed that she would be cited and her vehicle would be impounded. Only after the driver was told about the citation and impoundment of her vehicle did she then claim that she was going into labor. Out of an abundance of caution, Appellant immediately called for medical assistance based on the driver’s claims.

Medics responded to the scene and provided medical treatment to the driver. While the driver was sitting on the gurney, the trainee officer had the driver sign the citation. The medics testified at the hearing that the officers were never rude or discourteous to the driver, as the driver alleged in her complaint, and that having the driver sign the citation did not hamper her treatment or delay her transportation to the hospital. However, the Department accused Appellant of abusing his discretion in issuing a citation to the driver during an alleged medical emergency. The Department alleged “the issue of a citation to [the driver] at a moment when she was having a medical emergency displayed a lack of compassion and concern for her overall safety…. By enforcing the citation at a critical moment, your actions displayed not only poor judgment but also a lack of discretion not expected from a training officer of your tenure. Moreover, your decision to enforce the citation implied to (the trainee) and others that officers in this Department place a higher priority on processes over individual safety. Finally, allowing (the trainee) to issue the citation as [the driver] lay on a stretcher in a serious medical state, offered a direct message to your trainee that such decisions which lack compassion are acceptable.”

The Arbitrator found that the evidence was the exact opposite of the Department’s allegations. “The credible evidence herein is that [Appellant] acted out of concern for her and with regard for her safety. I was not presented with evidence that [Appellant], under the circumstances he was presented with, was obligated to express words of compassion to the female or, in effect to excuse her sins. He exhibited concern by his conduct, and civility, and that was sufficient. His behavior, including the issuance of the citation appeared to be consistent with his training, and, arguably, comported with what the public would expect from its sworn officers.” The Arbitrator overturned the discipline in its entirety and held that the Department “overreacted in sustaining even one aspect of the complaint herein, unfairly tarnishing the reputation of a good officer.”

The officer is grateful to PORAC, LDF, his Association and his attorneys, for the support and successful defense against the Department’s allegations during this appeal proceeding.

 

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