Sgt. Gabriela Garcia is an employee of Inglewood Police Department. To honor her former partner and co-worker who died in the line of duty, she attended one of the first police memorial ceremonies following his death. After an investigation, the department determined that Garcia was not authorized to be absent with pay and she was given a one-day’s (10 hour) suspension. After a full evidentiary hearing, an independent hearing officer determined that Garcia had approval to be absent with pay and her suspension was set aside.
The incident began when Garcia spoke to Police Chief Banks at a luncheon about going to one of the two police memorials. Garcia spoke to Banks because she knew that he was the only person approving requests to attend the memorial ceremonies in Sacramento and the District of Columbia. The reason for Banks direct involvement was that Inglewood had the misfortune to have one of its officers die in the line of duty and the memorial ceremonies in Sacramento and D.C. were the first police memorial services since the officer’s death; as a result, many of the department’s officers planned to attend. The chief determined that he alone would make the decision about who would be authorized to attend on duty.
During the hearing, Banks testified that he recalled a conversation with Garcia at a luncheon about her attendance at one of the memorials, but he did not recall the details. He also testified that he did not recall giving specific approval for Garcia to attend. On the other hand, Garcia’s recollection was specific. She recalled that she had been given approval to attend one of the memorials, but acknowledged that there was not a discussion regarding which memorial service or the specific dates or times she was authorized to be gone. Thereafter, Garcia spoke to two captains about taking the trip to Sacramento and she made arrangements with a captain to take a patrol car to the event.
Garcia went to the memorial ceremony in Sacramento with three other officers in the patrol car. She took one day of leave for travel and one for the event. At the time, Garcia’s normal workdays were Monday through Thursday. Because she did not work on Fridays, the day of the memorial, she flexed her time. Thus, she took the Thursday before for travel and the Monday before as flex time for her attendance at the memorial. Before she left, and consistent with department policy, for the Wednesday before the end of the pay period, Garcia submitted her written time card reflecting the authorized absence with pay.
While in Sacramento for the memorial, Garcia saw the chief, a captain, a couple of sergeants and others. No one questioned her presence. Garcia thought she had notified her immediate supervisor and didn’t realize that the supervisor was unaware that she had gone to the memorial until after she had left. While Garcia was at the memorial, her supervisor, a lieutenant, called the chief and asked if Garcia had permission to go. The chief apparently responded equivocally that he did not recall making an actual commitment approving Garcia’s attendance. Nonetheless, when the chief saw Garcia at the memorial, he did not make any inquiry of her.
The Inglewood officer who died had been a motor officer, so several motor officers also attended the memorial as part of the Inglewood contingent. Ironically, the department also claimed a miscommunication because those officers believed that they were approved to attend and understood that they were attending as authorized absence with pay. As it turned out, the department said they were not. Unlike Garcia, those motor officers were only required to use one of their time banks to cover the time off. None were disciplined, as was Garcia.
Unfortunately, Garcia received a notice from her supervisor recommending a one-day suspension. In addition, Garcia’s supervisor unilaterally changed her pay status from authorized absence with pay to comp time, thus causing Garcia to use 20 hours of her comp time bank for her attendance at the memorial.
Garcia requested a Skelly meeting which was held before the chief. The chief was a key witness in this, matter thus making the Skelly procedurally deficient. The chief sustained the one-day’s suspension and refused to reimburse her for the 20 hours of comp time that was taken from her. Thus, Garcia ended up losing 30 hours despite being given approval to attend the memorial ceremony to represent the Inglewood Police Department at an official function. The basis for the suspension was an alleged violation of failing to appear for a duty assignment without consent from proper authorities. As Garcia believed she had unequivocally received permission from the chief and as he was a proper authority, Garcia thought she was not absent without leave.
A due process administrative hearing was held before a neutral hearing officer, which was advisory to the city administrator. After a one-day hearing in which the chief, Garcia and her supervisor testified, the hearing officer found that Garcia had received approval from the chief to attend the memorial and that the city did not have good cause to discipline her. The hearing officer also found that she should be reimbursed for the one- day’s suspension that she served, and that she be deemed to have been on an authorized absence with pay on the two dates she claimed; that the city was to reimburse her for the two days of comp pay that was taken from her. The city administrator upheld the hearing officer’s decision, but gave the chief discretion as to whether or not to reimburse Garcia for the two days of comp pay that was unilaterally taken from her for attendance at the memorial service. Thereafter, the chief notified Garcia that he would not reimburse her comp bank. Given that Garcia’s unjust discipline was overturned and she was now being treated like many of the other officers who attended the memorial, she opted not to appeal further. Garcia is thankful and appreciative to LDF for providing her with the coverage she needed to appeal her discipline.
PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.
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To whom it may concern: Let me start by saying how much I appreciate the opportunity to join the PORAC Legal Defense Fund. This is a great benefit for our membership. During the past twelve months I was fortunate to have access to the Legal Defense Fund through MPCA. Earlier this year I was both surprise, and disappointed, when realized that I needed to provide counsel to mediate pending litigation. In accessing the Legal Defense Fund I found your staff to be very professional and reassuring. The staff felt that [my representative]., would be the best ft for the situation. I would like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation for being represented by [Rick Barry]. Not only was he a good fit for the circumstances, at times it seemed as if he was the only attorney out of several involved that really had a grasp on the issues. Again, I would like to thank the PORAC staff, and know that I could not have been better served than by what was provided by [my representative].
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Don't go to work without LDF!
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You guys did an amazing job! Thank you L.D.F. !
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I had never been through an I.A. in my 21 years. I was scared and ashamed and humiliated. ( My attorney ) was excellent. He helped me through one of the worst times of my life. Had great outcome and I am grateful.
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- Jurell Snyder Oakland POA
My LDF representative had a power point presentation, which was extremely professional.
- Jorge Garcia San Joaquin Co Corr Officers
No criticism to give. Very well.
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The LDF is a tool available to me which I hope never goes away. It makes me feel that much more confident to do my job knowing LDF has my back when police work gets ugly. And it usually does..
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Thank you for your services.
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Thank you for your help.
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[My representative] was an outstanding attorney to work with. Even though I did not receive a desirable outcome entirely, I was exceptionally satisfied with his representation. Thank you.
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My representatives were always well-prepared and organized for hearings and meetings. Their efforts, hard work and full support is truly appreciated.
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I have held leadership positions in our POA most of my career. Because of my role as President and Vice President I have been a target to management. I feel that if it were not for LDF I wouldn't have a job
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An excellent plan. Very valuable to its members.
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Outstanding [law firm] - incredible firm. And, LDF was easy to work and correspond with.
- Kip RIngen Lake Co DSA
My LDF rep kept me well informed concerning the progress of my case. I was extremely satisfied with the service I received. Thanks.
- Adam Laird Eureka POA
Dear PORAC Legal Defense Fund, This email has been weighing on my heart and should have been sent a long time ago. However, time seems to move fast even though your life has been put on hold. I have been on administrative leave since December of 2012. In April of 2013, I was arrested for the performance of my duties. Since the administrative side this case has not been resolved, I won't be getting into specific details regarding my case. However, I will say that I never thought that my life would turned upside down by doing the job that I love, and doing it in a way that I had been trained. I have been in Law Enforcement for 10 years, and I have been paying my monthly dues all along. I never really understood how important paying dues might be for me, I just thought it was the "cost of business". After being arrested, I understood the real worth of that investment. Because of politics, my case was given the "full court press". On January 3rd of 2014, the case against me was dismissed. It took no less than 5 experts to convince the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office to request dismissal. The time, effort, and money that this case cost couldn't have been endured by me as the sole provider of a family of four. LDF was there, big time. The panel attorney's under LDF were the best in the business. In the uncertain time during the criminal process, I couldn't have imagined how much help they could be. What a relief to know that LDF had my back. I am used to defending those who can't defend themselves. That's my job. When I was defenseless, LDF and the attorneys assigned to my case were my advocates and defenders. I thank you. My criminal attorney said it best at the conclusion of my criminal case: "Adam and his family are thankful that they can now move forward. The evidence showing Sgt. Laird was innocent was overwhelming. The expert EPD hired said that the suspect was rising up when Sgt. Laird pushed him back to the ground. The two experts that the DA’s office hired said that the force was reasonable and appropriate. The defensive tactics instructor who trained Adam said he acted consistent with his training in apprehending a high risk suspect in a dangerous situation. In total, five separate police practices experts reviewed the case and unanimously said Sgt. Laird acted appropriately". "It is hard to imagine what it must be like to risk your life apprehending a known gang member only to be charged with using excessive force when the suspect stated that he did not even feel the contact at issue. It is simply bizarre that Sgt. Laird was ever charged with a crime". Thank you. My family and I will forever be grateful for your service, Sergeant Adam Laird
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Very satisfied with the LDF services provided. Thank you.
- Douglas Mansker Bakersfield POA
(My attorney) is a very good attorney, despite his young age. He kept me well informed throughout my legal matter and returned phone calls in a prompt manner. I was very satisfied with his performance and would not hesitate to be represented by him again.
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Those who foolishly feel LDF is not a valuable resource, do so only because they have not yet needed legal representation.
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I was very pleased with the service I received
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Great job by all! Always great to know LDF is there when needed.
- Linda Mendez Imperial Co Prob and Corr
I'm very pleased with the services offered by the LDF. I feel so fortunate to enjoy the benefits of having the membership. The services provided by LDF to its members is simply 110% professional, supportive, great!! LDF care for its members is reflected by the quality of Best Law Firm offered, simply the best!
- Shandon Murphy San Mateo POA
Great work! Thank you so much!
- Marshall Henderson Vancouver Police Officers Guild
I have used LDF in 3 OIS's. Each time I have been very well taken care of. I highly recommend [ representative ] and the PORAC system. Well done and thank you.
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- Korey Lankow Assn Highway Patrol of Arizona
Outstanding service from bottom-to-top.
- Paul Hernandez LA Gen Services POA Inc.
[My Representative] was very helpful in my situation and I can't thank him enough.
- Robert Mickschl SAN DIEGO HARBOR P O A
From my initial call to LDF, to my "Thank You" email to (my attorney ) I had the best representation I could have hoped for. The "800" number call receptionists were very professional & understanding. (My Attorney's) office & staff kept me informed & updated. I am forever thankful to LDF & exceptional representation by ( my attorney ) & staff.
- Yvonne Heuston ERS/SPPOA Supervisors
My representative was outstanding and knew what to lookout for and how to handle situations as they appeared. He told me what to expect and how he proposed to handle the hurdles. Just telling what to expect helped put me at ease as the situation was so foreign to me, and intimidating.
- Keith Braden Los Angeles School Police Mgmt Assn
Great work, no complaints.
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LDF is a great organization that not only helps their clients but many of those around them such as coworkers and family members.
- Marco Flores Ventura County PPOA
Great program. I was lost until the attorneys explained the situation. I was very impressed and satisfied. Thanks LDF.
- Melvarene Hayes LA Airport POA
They were there when I needed them and my whole case was handled on the phone. I met my representative after my case closed and he was at our union meeting when I had the pleasure to meet him and thank him in person.
- Jaime Kim Oakland POA
My rep did a good job. First we met and he explained that there might be culpability on my part but not nothing close to the allegations. I appreciated his honesty as we have all done things that can be taken out of context so it was important he told me to realize that.
- Gary Silva East Bay Region Parks POA
Thank you for providing this service. My experience with LDF was very much to my satisfaction.
- Billy Aldridge Chico POA
[My representative] was awesome! He provided an excellent explanation of the process and was very professional. This was my first IA in 11 years of LE and [my representative] did a great job of reassuring me that I had nothing to worry about. Thank you so much for all your help.
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My LDF rep was very attentive, and courteous. She made every effort to keep me informed, and kept my best interests at the front of the process. I was very satisfied with my LDF rep, and the entire process.
- Katherine Comesana Mountain View POA
Hope to never in a situation again, however, glad to know that LDF is there to help.
- Ken Burbank Shasta Co DSA
[ My representative ] was professional, articulate and prepared, but most importantly he understood the emotional impact the investigation was having on me as a person and peace officer. I highly recommend [my representative].
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[My representative] was wonderful! Even though my situation didn't end in my favor, he was very supportive, informative & patient. He always answered every email in a timely fashion and was very accessible. I appreciated everything he was able to do for me.
- Brendan Dolan Milwaukee PA
Everything went very smooth and they handled everything! Thank you.
- Andrea Salas Sonoma County DSA
[My Representative] was great! Thank you.
- Gregory Carbett Ontario POA
The attorney assigned to my case was GREAT! It's sad, but it's impossible to be an officer in today's world without a defense fund like PORAC LDF. I am now retired and signed up for the retired officers CCW LDF. Thanks!
- Steven E. Lopez Santa Maria POA
Keep up the Good Work! Your service was extremely helpful to me. Thank you.
- James Hika Border Patrol Supervisors Association
They did a great job!
- Nestor Hernandez San Diego POA
This is a great program designed to protect LEO’s in need
- Alvaro Ancheta Glendora POA
I felt I was represented in a thorough and professional manner.
- Rick Stephens Alpine CO DSA
My representative was very good. I highly recommend my lawyer to anyone.
- Stephanie Haas Lyon Co SEA
When I first contacted LDF re: my case I was unsure of how well/poor I'd actually be represented. I was impressed beyond belief. From the timely responses from my attorney, his knowledge in my case, advising me what my rights were and where I stood. I felt like I was genuinely being protected from unwarranted and unfounded accusations and believe, as long as I am in the right, I have someone fighting for me. Thank you, Thank you.
- Patricia Goss San Anselmo POA
[My Representative] is fabulous! Thanks for all the exra work she did for me!
- Rachel Tyner Transit EOA of San Diego
All the LDF representatives were very courteous and attentive with a punctual response to all of my concerns, inquiries and appointment scheduling. My representative was very informative about the legalities and kept in contact with me regularly. He was also very patient and straight forward. I would definitely want to use the LDF again and felt more confident through my proceedings because I had representation!
- Kim Prout Upland Firefighters Assoc
It was great comfort to know somebody would be there for me in this matter. I was able to finally sleep @ night & wake up with confidence that I would be ok. Thanks.
- Joseph Barrett LA Airport POA
I was very well represented by a professional. I felt well represented and got great advice.
- Tia Dixione Inglewood POA
My representative was very helpful and informative.
- Craig Caches Fremont POA
I have only used LDF once for myself, which with the circumstance was great. I work with LDF in my assignment ( OIS investigator ) and after approximately 4-5 OIS's, I have great experiences with LDF.
- Miguel Suarez Monterey Co DSA
[My representative] was very knowledgeable and courteous. He knew his stuff, and I couldn't have asked for a better guy to be on my side on this matter. Thanks.
- Grace Castro AFGE Local 2455 – Laredo, TX
My representative was very kind and showed he cared when explaining what my legal rights were when dealing with an internal investigation.
- Brendan Tinney UC Berkeley POA
[My representative] has represented me twice now and both times I have been very pleased with his thoroughness with handling my cases. I appreciate all what LDF and [my representative] have done for me.
- John Dougherty National City POA
My LDF Representative was [Representative]. He did an outanding job with my case and I am overjoyed with the results.
- Miguel Masso Oakland POA
[I'm very satisfied and grateful] for LDF representing me. My attorney was professional, honest, and very knowledgeable of his profession. During these tough times my attorney would contact me on a regular basis to see how I was doing. This was obviously not part of his job description, but it kept me at ease and not losing my mind. I'm thankful that I was represented by LDF.
- James Walker Yakima Police Patrolsman Assn
This attorney and her legal team were one of the best I’ve seen and interacted with. I was always in the loop and constantly updated on the case status. I would use (my attorney) again if the need came and recommend her to anyone.
- Cathleen Weldon Siskiyou Correctional POA
Very Comforting to have a knowledgeable person looking out for my best inerests. Thx!
- Shaun Luciano LA School PA
LDF assisted by taking a stressful situation and calmed it down by thoroughly explaining the entire process. It was nice to know that I had an ally when I was sure that I was alone.
- Juan Pascua, Jr. San Diego Co DSA
Very helpful and very informative!
- David Baker Placerville POA
My experience through dealing with this matter was horrific. Without the efforts of the LDF and more specifically [my representative], I would most certainly have fallen victim to a corrupt and unethical administration. The LDF has saved my career and brought me justice.
- Greg Harman Kensington POA
[My representative] is the best!!
- Scott Cox Tulare Co DSA
I just want to say [my representative] did a great job! Thank you.
- James Beckman Miracosta College POA
Highly recommend this program for any LEO!
- Noe Cordero San Diego POA
Thank you for your help. I feel very secure as you assisted me.
- Robert Glock Oakland POA
I am always satisfied with LDF and all their representatives.
- Erik Kusmerz Lyon Co SEA
Amazing job, Thank you.
- Jason Walters Claremont POA
LDF was very informative and provided me with the direction on how to handle my case. I was very happy with LDF and their staff.
- Brian Markert Lakewood Police Indp Guild
I feel that I was very well represented by the LDF regarding a fatal officer involved shooting. Both attorneys assigned to assist me - our guild attorney plus a criminal defense attorney - were very aggressive and helpful. Their work was instrumental in helping me to navigate the criminal and internal investigations so that I could return to full duty status.
- George Fierro El Monte POA
I am a firm believer that LDF serves an essential part in the assistance to protect an officer's POBR & in the integrity of an investigation or complaint. I highly recommend the law office of [My Represenative].
- Jeff Stanley Upland POA
Excellent representation. [My representative] is a great attorney.
- Keith Stiver Hayward POA
[My representative] brings a superlative reputation, a comforting and confidence building demeanor and a clear expertise to the table. In particular I appreciate her philosophy that she gives her total undivided attention to her clients during their appointments.
- Toinie Lee Jackson Madera Co DSA
Unfortunately, I have been placed in the position to use LDF several times in my career. Without their valued services, I would not be here to write this. I and my family thank you.
- Todd Costa Santa Clara Co DSA
This was my first Internal Affairs investigation, my lawyer walked me through every step and answered all of my questions, without my lawyer's advice, I would have been lost throughout the investigation and a complete disadvantage against my department.
- Jay Garacochea Culver City POA
[My representative] not only did he do a great job but he listened to my concerns. He did not force his views or game plan and we worked well w/ each other. We agreed on a goal and achieved it.
- Carlos Gonzalez Oakland POA
Very well informed group.
- Patrick Davis Oakland POA
Very knowledgeable and thorough and would use the rep again.
- Roy Iler San Benito CO LEM
[My representative] always returned phone calls and let me know if he was contacted with information.
- Omar Daza-Quiroz Oakland POA
I have had (2) two cases in which LDF represented me. Both lawyers were exceptionally professional, intelligent and caring for me. They were friendly and very helpful.
- RIchard Okeson Hesperia USD POA
I can't express how satisfying and comforting it was to have such a well qualified and pleasant attorney at my side. Thank you so much for everything you did for me, and if you can, please thank [ my representative] again for being there for me.
- David Heller Yolo County DSA
The charges against me, if sustained, would have likely ended my LE career. I was rightfully exonerated on all charges. I was well represented by [My Representative] and thank him for a job well done!!
- Tyler Robins Pasadena City College POA
At a time when no one cares about you it's nice to have someone on your side who does. (My attorney ) made a stressful six months a lot more tolerable.
- Ricky L. Hemphill Los Angeles School PA
[My representative] was an excellent lawyer.
- Robert Hartman Contra Costa Co DSA
Quick response, experienced and knowledgeable attorney which assisted in every step. [My representative] kept me apprised through the process. Thank you.
- Diana Drummey Coronado POA
I so appreciated my LDF rep - his kindness and understanding re my case during an embarrassing and uncomfortable time - he was so caring.