Police 0fficers are public servants responsible to the taxpayers and their profession. When an officer violates the rules of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), they are disciplined through penalties. Both state laws and the department policy bind the officer. Officers are given hearings and allowed to plead their case in line with due process considerations. The following civil service case illustrates how appeals work under the Civil Service Commission scheme.
A New Orleans police officer was caught driving a marked squad vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. As a result, he was required to enter the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney’s Pre-Trial Diversion Program. As a result of entering the program, he was deemed to have admitted responsibility for his violations of state law: driving while intoxicated (La. R.S. 14:98) and careless operation of a motor vehicle (La. R.S. 32:58).
Following his entry into diversion, the NOPD started an investigation of the Officer’s actions and violations of NOPD regulations. As a result, the Department Superintendent recommended various sanctions, including a suspension and letters of reprimand. The Officer appealed the decision, which was countered by a motion for summary judgment by the NOPD. The Officer had admitted guilt by entering the diversion program, giving the NOPD a strong claim for summary judgment. The Commission held a hearing for the appeal, which the Officer failed to appear at. The Commission, therefore, dismissed the appeal in favor of the NOPD. The Officer filed for a rehearing which was denied. He then appealed the denial for a rehearing.
The court of review is only allowed to overturn the original decision if the Commission’s ruling was arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. Wilson v. New Orleans Aviation Bd., 687 So.2d 593, 595 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1997). Therefore, the bar for appeal is high and favors the authority of the Commission. Additionally, the Commission relied on a Supreme Court case that held that the violation of a state statute inherently impairs the efficient operation of the department. Regis v. NOPD, 121 So.3d 665 (La. 2013).
On appeal, the Officer argued that the NOPD failed to provide sufficient evidence to sustain the disciplinary sanctions. However, as noted above, entry into the diversion program equated to an admission of guilt on the charges. Additionally, the violation of a state statute inherently impairs the functioning of the police department and therefore is not an abuse of discretion by the Commission.
The Officer also argued that he was not allowed a right to a hearing as required by the rules of civil service. This claim is particularly confusing because the Officer had a hearing that he failed to show up for. As such, the court of review similarly denied this appeal of due process.
This case shows the complexity of interactions of rules for police officers. They are responsible for their criminal actions and are under the jurisdiction of the department’s regulations. This scheme of rules for public servants, such as police officers, incentivizes officers to uphold the laws they enforce.
Additional Sources: AUCOIN V. DEPT. OF POLICE
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Corrinne Yoder-Mulkey
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