Once again, Chief Fronterotta and Captain DiBernardo have been overturned in a petty disciplinary suspension that should have never been pursued. A senior police detective was issued a 20-hour suspension for accidentally sending an email to a victim that the Department alleged was discourteous and conduct unbecoming of an officer. The detective had no prior similar acts of misconduct. However, the City refused to reduce the discipline. With the assistance of Dawson & Riley, LLP, Appellant was able to convince the arbitrator that this was clearly an accident with no intentional misconduct, and as such, the discipline should be overturned.
In October of 2012, Appellant was assigned to investigate a domestic violence complaint by a victim against her boyfriend (aka “the suspect”). During her investigation, Appellant learned that the suspect had fled the country to Central America. In March, 2013, victim filed another complaint, but this time with the LAPD against her boyfriend for alleged kidnapping and rape. An LAPD Detective was assigned to that investigation. When the LAPD Detective discovered that there was an on-going investigation by the Inglewood Police Department, she contacted Appellant. From that point on both detectives communicated with each other, in part because both departments were pursuing the suspect in Central America, and would be seeking foreign extradition, if and when he was found.
Early on in her investigation, Appellant became concerned about the victim’s safety so she petitioned the court to provide financial assistance to relocate the victim to a new location. Her request was granted. Over the period of time, both detectives reminded the victim not to contact or to be in touch with the suspect.
On March 11, 2014, Appellant learned from an email that the victim sent to the LAPD detective that the victim unlocked her Facebook account. After Appellant saw that email, she testified that she was upset and frustrated because the victim had unblocked her Facebook account looking to see what her ex-boyfriend/suspect was doing. Appellant responded to the forwarded email from the LAPD detective and unknowingly also sent it to the victim wherein she said in sum – sure she moved on…no wonder she hooked up with this fool.
When the victim saw Appellant’s email, she emailed back: “Excuse me?” Appellant, realizing what happened, immediately called the victim and apologized to her.
Shortly thereafter, the victim emailed Appellant that she would be filing a complaint with her department. Appellant apologized again and explained to the victim why she was frustrated.
The Arbitrator agreed with Appellant’s counsel that just cause did not exist for a 20-hour suspension in this matter. This was an unintended mistake that Appellant immediately apologized for, which occurred prior to the victim notifying that she would be filing a complaint against Appellant. Per the Arbitrator, this should have been handled with a simple non-disciplinary reminder to be more careful and nothing more. Once again the heavy-handed attempt by Chief Fronterotta and his staff to discipline an employee was overturned, thanks to the law firm of Dawson & Riley, LLP and PORAC’s Legal Defense Fund.