When Honor Isn’t Honored: A Recipe For Unfair Termination
The right thing to do isn’t always treated like it’s the right thing to do. Just combine politics, management unwilling to stand up for LEOs, an irresponsible teenager, and a LEO doing his job who was unwilling to compromise his values.
A few years ago, I represented a LEO who found his job pulled from him and his POST certification at risk. His offense? Officer Roberts arrested a juvenile who was closely related to a county commissioner. The morning following the arrest, Officer Roberts appeared for his shift and was immediately confronted by his chief. He made it clear that the only acceptable course of action was for the client to make the charges “go away.” Standing firm upon the law and his ethics, Roberts refused to drop the charges. The chief promptly terminated him claiming the arrest was based upon an incorrect interpretation of the law. Roberts went home, packed up his issued equipment, and prepared to defend his career and POST certificate.
The call to our office was tough for him, but he knew his legal bills wouldn’t come out of his pocket. EXPLANATION: He was a long-time member of the FOP Legal Defense Plan. He found LoRusso Law Firm through the Fraternal Order of Police Legal Defense Plan website, www.foplegal.com.
He prepared ahead, prioritized his personal defense, and we prepared to protect his rights and his career without a chain of command or fear of county politics.
Officer Roberts filled out a claim form with the FOP Legal Defense Plan and came into my office. It was immediately clear to me that the arrest was lawful. In fact, his interpretation of the law was supported by both the plain language of the statute and case law. We immediately set out a plan to formally appeal his termination and to find an expert witness to assist with our case.
The termination prevented Officer Roberts from getting another job in the area so we tried to move quickly. We always recognize the personal hardships faced by clients facing discipline.
Our letter of representation to the city and the police chief sent shock waves through the agency. Apparently, no one challenged discipline in this agency.
We appealed and lost at the first level before an official who had approved the termination. No surprise there. But giving up is over-rated. We then appealed to the next level as set out in the county policies. At this second level, the board was appalled at the way Officer Roberts was treated and reinstated him – with back pay. Officer Roberts was ecstatic.
We notified POST of the change in circumstances and protected his certification. Shortly after the successful appeal, the chief and another involved supervisor were fired. Officer Roberts went back to work at the agency, then resigned. As he told us, his faith in the department was lost. Although he loved the community, he simply could not trust the political machine running the department.
ALL of his fees and expenses were paid for by the Fraternal Order of Police Legal Defense Plan including the expenses associated with the retention of an expert who testified on his behalf. Officer Roberts left our office with his head high and prepared for other opportunities to serve and protect.
FINAL THOUGHT: We wear body armor and seatbelts because we never know when our lives will be placed in danger. The same is true of a LEO’s career. An allegation like this could have prevented Officer Roberts from ever working in law enforcement again or ending up on a list of LEOs who cannot testify. Protect yourself, your family, and your career. Join the FOP Legal Defense Plan today.
It’s not a matter of IF . . . it’s a matter of WHEN your badge will be threatened. Join your local Firefighter’s Union or the Fraternal Order of Police and the FOP Legal Defense Plan! Call our office to join up today. 770-644-2378
Disclaimer: Unless associated with a lawsuit available for public review, these stories are adaptations and amalgamations from actual cases. Facts have been changed to prevent any to association with any client.