Early Success for New/Non-Scope Plan Realized at San Bernardino POA

Posted on Wednesday, December 01, 2004 at 12:01PM
Posted by Robert W. Krause

Over the July 4, 2003 weekend, San Bernardino POA member and police officer, Tim Matlock, was on an outing with family and friends on the Colorado River near the Parker strip area. Towards evening, Matlock was stopped on the river by what turned out to be an over zealous and less than candid Arizona deputy sheriff. Matlock’s group was detained for a number of hours. Ultimately, Matlock was freed without charges, but his department was notified and the fight was on.

The chief of police imposed a 20-hour suspension on Matlock for conduct unbecoming an officer while off-duty. The chief and his investigators chose to believe the Arizona deputy’s version of events over his own officers. Fortunately, a full Civil Service Board heard the matter over a three-day hearing, disagreed and overturned the chief, thereby exonerating Matlock.

Prior to this incident, San Bernardino POA had not opted for non-scope coverage offered by the Legal Defense Fund. Matlock would not have been able on his own to fund a multi-day hearing involving independent investigation and use of expert witnesses.

The SBPOA board of directors recognizing a growing trend industry wide of officers suffering job sanctions for non-job related conduct (whether or not well founded) voted to join the new option, thereby taking advantage of the retroactive coverage being offered by the Fund.

We were able to interview witnesses the department chose to ignore, challenged the “Arizona” experts with “California” experts of our own, and test the department’s case through a three-day hearing. Sadly, the department could have and should have learned that the detaining Arizona deputy claimed to have given a PAS test when it clearly was not given. He also claimed to have given a nystagmus test when, again, there was not one given. The misrepresentations of this Arizona deputy to other California law enforcement officers exacerbated the situation, leaving the San Bernardino PD with the decision to not back its own officer.

Some argue it is a waste of resources to fight so hard for a “lower level” discipline and to “take it like a man.” They ignore the bigger picture. But, as I argued to and proved to the Civil Service Commission, if no discipline is appropriate, then any discipline is inappropriate. The amount is not the determining factor. Additionally, the San Bernardino PD, like many others, has a scoring system for promotions. Sustained discipline of any kind costs officers points toward those promotions in the competitive process. Had the department prevailed in this unjust discipline, whatever the level, there would have been an ongoing harm to an association member.

You now have a tool in the form of Legal Defense Fund’s “non-scope option” to better protect your members from unwarranted discipline based on non-scope allegations of misconduct.

About the Author: Bob Krause is a partner in the law offices of Castle, Petersen & Krause, Newport Beach, CA. Krause, a retired Oceanside police sergeant and association activist/president has been representing the interest of peace officers and others, for the past 20 years.

PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.