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By PORAC | April 1, 2019 | Posted in PORAC LDF News

L.A. School Police Rescinds Suspension Against Police Officer

Dawson & Riley, LLP

A Los Angeles School Police Department officer was successful in overturning an unjustified five-day suspension imposed by his department thanks to the unwavering representation of the attorneys at Dawson & Riley, LLP.

The appellant was accused on three different occasions of failing or delaying to book small amounts of marijuana. The appellant had only recently transferred back to campus services and was unfamiliar with the change in department policy not to cite students for small amounts of marijuana. However, unbeknownst to him, even though they do not cite for the violation, the policy requires the confiscation and booking of the contraband.

The first incident allegedly occurred in November 2015. The school administration found the alleged marijuana and then contacted the appellant to handle the situation. Given that the alleged incident occurred over a year prior to the disciplinary action, the appellant did not remember having any contact with the student. The only person who claimed the appellant received the marijuana was the student, who claimed he gave it to the appellant personally; however, the student contradicted his own statement when he also claimed that the nurse was the one who gave the marijuana to the appellant. The allegation was sustained based solely on the student’s inconsistent statement.

In addition to the lack of evidence to support a sustained finding, the department also failed to complete the investigation and notice to the appellant of the intended discipline within the one-year statute of limitations, as outlined in Government Code Section 3304(d). Additionally, it could be argued that the belated investigation of the matter occurred because the alleged misconduct was not sufficiently egregious to warrant discipline. Since the department failed to notify the appellant within the one-year statute of limitations, that particular charge should have never been sustained.

During the second incident in March 2016, the appellant contacted a student who was in possession of a small quantity of marijuana. While he was in the process of citing the teenager for the violation, his supervisor contacted him on an unrelated matter and inquired regarding what he was doing. His supervisor advised him of the change in department policy wherein small amounts of marijuana were no longer cited and then directed him to handle a different matter. As such, the appellant released the student and then kept the marijuana that he confiscated in his desk drawer until he could determine what to do with it.

On the third incident, which occurred on April 2016, a student was found in possession of marijuana. The appellant confiscated the marijuana and also placed it in his desk drawer. The following day, two supervisors at the direction of the watch commander went to the appellant’s school and questioned him regarding the marijuana in violation of his Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights. An internal affairs investigation ensued.

The appellant’s partner, who was also represented by Dawson & Riley, was similarly accused of not booking small amounts of marijuana on two other occasions, which was a byproduct of the investigation into the appellant. The appellant’s partner’s appeal was adjudicated first and prior to the completion of the appellant’s appeal hearing. The hearing officer ruled that department management’s justification for the discipline was not credible and withdrew all formal discipline against the appellant’s partner. Shortly after receipt of the hearing officer’s decision in that matter and after notification to the department of subpoenaing a key witness to refute representations made by the department in its case-in-chief, the department rescinded all of the disciplines and reimbursed the appellant for the unjustified imposition of discipline.

The appellant is grateful that the department essentially admitted that the discipline should have never occurred and for the zealous representation by Dawson & Riley and the support provided by the Legal Defense Fund.

About the Author

Andrew M. Dawson is a partner at Dawson & Riley, LLP, a boutique law firm that is selective in its representation, which focuses on quality rather than quantity. With over 40 years of law enforcement experience, Dawson and his team provide unsurpassed legal representation for California’s first responders in negotiations, labor relations, disciplinary matters and critical incidents.