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Arbitrator Overturns Discipline

Posted on Monday, June 01, 1998 at 12:00PM

Huntington Beach K-9 Officer Jeff Huss received a two-day suspension and was removed from the K-9 program for allegedly leaving work 15 minutes early without obtaining permission from a supervisor. The hearing was held before arbitrator Louis Zigman. Officer Huss was represented by LDF panel attorney James E. Trott.

What made the case unusual was that immediately upon the city presenting its evidence, the arbitrator, prior to Huss introducing ANY evidence, stated, “I shared with counsel that this case is …. I’m going to find in favor of the appellant on the issue of the violation being none, based upon …. essentially on Sergeant Evans testimony, and also, I guess, on the appellant’s testimony, because I heard his testimony, too.”

The case stemmed from an observation made by Captain E. McErlan on his way to work one morning. He observed a K-9 unit traveling away from the police station at a time when most units were headed in for the end of watch. Upon arriving at the station, McErlan ordered one of the supervisors on duty to drive by Huss’ residence and see if the K-9 vehicle was parked there. (Huss lived in the city approximately two miles from the police station.)

By the time the sergeant drove by, the shift had ended. Undaunted, McErlan pursued the matter, claiming that Huss was on his way home and not working. This position was strengthened by the fact that shortly before end of watch, Huss stated to the dispatcher that he was “outta here.”

During the hearing Captain McErlan was asked if he used his radio to check and see where the Huss unit was going, or if he followed the K-9 vehicle to see if in fact Huss was headed home and no longer working, despite still being on the clock. McErlan testified that that was “not his job” and assigned the task to another supervisor upon reaching the office.

Despite the fact that Huss, in an IA interview, stated he was not at home, still monitoring radio until his shift was over and the department did not have a single witness to counter that evidence, the department still proceeded with a suspension and removal from the K-9 program. As indicated, the case went no further than the cross examination of the department’s own witnesses and the hearing officer did not require Huss to put on a single witness, ending the nonsense at the earliest possible stage.

Huss never returned to the program, as his dog was injured and retired before the hearing was complete. The policy in Huntington Beach is that when the handler’s dog retires, another officer is given the opportunity to enter the program. Huss had worked the K-9 detail for several years.

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