Rains Lucia Stern, PC
After a long battle, a Monterey County Probation Department Supervisor learned that Arbitrator David Gaba recommended that the County’s issuance of a double-demotion for his alleged misconduct be reduced to a written reprimand, at most, for minor breaches in policy.
The Supervisor’s Outstanding History
Prior to the incident that led to an excessive and unjust punishment of a double-demotion, the Supervisor had a long history of working in juvenile corrections settings. Before his employment with Monterey County, he worked for nearly four years at Kern County Probation Juvenile Hall, and earned a reputation as a hard-working and fair officer.
In 2000, our client began his employment with Monterey County Juvenile Probation. Due to his exemplary work ethic, enthusiasm for the job and dedication to the juveniles in the institution, he was quickly promoted to Senior Juvenile Institutions Officer. After a highly successful and brief run as a Senior Officer, the Department again promoted him to Juvenile Institutions Supervisor.
During his next 10 years as a Supervisor, our client proved to be a near exemplary employee and manager. At the time of his double-demotion, his performance evaluations consistently noted his excellent work ethic, productivity, integrity and enthusiasm for the job. In addition, the Department entrusted our client with various specialty assignments, including supervising the Juvenile Honor Guard, expanding necessary education programs for the juveniles and teaching various juvenile justice programs. Further, due to his diligence and dedication, our client never previously received any form of discipline in his nearly 12-year career with the Department, 10 of which were as a Supervisor. Likewise, the Department never before questioned or investigated his work ethic, ability to follow orders or his veracity.
In summary, prior to the discipline at issue, the Supervisor’s behavior, conduct and abilities were beyond reproach.
Incident that Led to Unwarranted Discipline
For the majority of his career, our client worked at a Departmental facility called the “Youth Center,” which is currently intended to be a maximum-security detention facility. However, this facility was originally a hospital that was later remodeled to a semi-medium security facility. To say that the facility in its current state was not designated for its current use would be an understatement. The facility’s security features are wholly inadequate to meet the needs of the juvenile population, and management has utterly failed to respond to the facility’s evolving security needs. For instance, management failed to install security bars on many of the facility’s windows, did not secure the perimeter of the institution and allowed a front gate to remain unsecure after numerous escapes. As a result, escapes by juveniles at the Youth Center occurred at an alarming rate, both before and after this incident. In fact, the facility was previously closed by state officials, and numerous County and Departmental officials have publicly noted the security deficiencies.
Compounding the severe security deficiencies was the lack of clear direction and oversight. For example, the Youth Center Policy Manual was wildly outdated, as it had not been updated since May 2003 when the facility was serving a very different population with a very different security profile.
As a result of the security deficiencies and mismanagement, Departmental employees, including our client, were constantly adapting to the structures and population of the facility. Officers frequently created practices that fit the ever-changing needs of the facility — practices that often deviated from and superseded written policies and directives. Most often, such necessary practices were accepted by management.
On Aug. 28, 2011, our client followed the existing protocol of supervising religious services provided to the juveniles — a practice that replaced the outdated written regulations. On that date, a pastor for the Youth Center arrived to conduct religious services and counsel the juveniles. At the pastor’s request, and as he was trained, our client provided the pastor a confidential room to instruct and counsel the juveniles. Though the room did not have security bars on the windows, it was regularly used for such confidential services. While our client did not remain directly inside of the room to supervise the activities, he had a direct line of sight on the room, positioned himself near it and frequently looked inside the room to ensure the safety of the occupants. This practice allowed for a confidential environment for the juveniles at an institution lacking any confidentiality.
Roughly 30 minutes after our client placed the pastor and juveniles in the room, two chairs were thrown through an unsecured window and six residents escaped. our client responded immediately by ordering another officer to stay with the pastor and remaining juveniles for security purposes, and then ran after the fleeing juveniles. Unfortunately, our client was unable to catch the juveniles, who easily squeezed through the unsecure front gate. Clearly, had the windows been secured with bars or had the front gate been securely locked, the juveniles would not have escaped.
Following this incident, our client prepared various reports about the incident, while also engaging in a multitude of other tasks. In writing these reports, he made one minor and inadvertent mistake regarding his location immediately preceding the escape. Although his superiors directed other employees to amend their reports to accurately reflect the details of the incident, they denied our client the same opportunity.
Like so many of the other escapes from the Youth Center, this incident garnered a considerable amount of negative publicity. Instead of recognizing that this incident was a product of deficient security features and lack of management oversight, the Department succumbed to public pressures and began a formal investigation into our client’s actions preceding the escape.
Investigation and Advisory Arbitration Award
After a rather cursory internal investigation into this incident, the Internal Affairs investigators determined that our client violated numerous Youth Center Manual policies regarding failing to adequately supervise the religious services. In doing so, the investigators completely ignored that their report indicated that our client conducted himself like any other officer and according to his training. Nearly all of the other witness officers interviewed followed the same practice as our client when supervising religious services. The investigators also glaringly overlooked the fact that management admittedly condoned this routine practice.
In addition, the Internal Affairs investigators held the opinion that our client’s unintentional mistake in a report about this incident indicated an intent to deceive the Department about his location before the escape. As such, and ignoring all of the evidence to the contrary, the investigators sustained our client for making false or misleading statements in an official report.
Overlooking the glaring errors in the Internal Affairs report, the fact that outdated and vague policies were replaced by the known and accepted practice of supervising religious services, that lax management played a key role in the escape and our client’s positive history as a supervisor and dedication to the Department, the Department issued a double-demotion. This discipline resulted in a 14-step salary reduction that was roughly equivalent to a $10,000 per year reduction in pay. With no prior discipline, the Department determined that it was appropriate and fair to demote our client to the rank he held at the time he was hired 12 years earlier.
Unwilling to accept this unjust and excessive punishment, we elected to proceed to an advisory arbitration, the results of which were referred to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.
After four days of testimony and submission of written briefs, the arbitrator determined that the County not only failed to provide sufficient evidence to sustain many of the findings, but also determined that the extreme penalty of a double-demotion, in the absence of any prior discipline, had no legal basis.
With regard to the findings that our client intentionally falsified a report about his location before the escape, the arbitrator stated that everyone makes mistakes; that is simply what our client did. He found that our client had absolutely no incentive to be untruthful, and he had nothing to gain by misrepresenting his location prior to this incident. In short, our client merely made a mistake in a report due to inattention and haste in writing his report. Accordingly, the arbitrator recommended that our client receive nothing more than a written reprimand for this mistake.
The arbitrator similarly concluded that the County lacked any evidence to support the contention that our client failed to adequately supervise the juveniles during religious services. Due to the obsolete policies and archaic facility, officers reasonably and justifiably created necessary practices to supervise the juveniles. Our client simply followed the routine protocol of other officers and supervisors at the Youth Center. Furthermore, the arbitrator concluded that management must bear some responsibility for this incident — the Youth Center in its current state was not designed to hold juveniles that did not want to be there, as evident not only in this escape but also the shocking number of other escapes. Our client should not shoulder the burden of this escape alone.
In the end, the arbitrator did the right thing by finding that a double-demotion was wholly unreasonable in this case, and implored that the County issue, at most, a written reprimand for a minor violation.
As of the date of this article, our client has yet to be made whole and returned to his former rank as a Juvenile Institutions Supervisor. However, our client is confident that, with the continued help and support from the Legal Defense Fund, he will prevail in front of the Board of Supervisors in his fight to regain his supervisory ranks. Our client, along with this author, is grateful for the unwavering support shown by the Legal Defense Fund.
About the Author
Terry Leoni is a senior associate who works in the firm’s Legal Defense of Peace Officers Practice Group and in the Criminal Defense Practice Group. Terry represents public safety officers in administrative, disciplinary, and criminal defense matters.
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- William Pryor Statewide University PA
Very helpful program. Helped keep department personnel focused on the issue regardless of their personal issues.
- Russell Wise Alameda POA
- Steven Moorehouse Redding POA
Thank you for your help.
- Rodney Kirkland Oakland POA
Being a police officer in the city of Oakland, I appreciate the services that are offered.
- German Alvarez Anaheim PA
[My representative ] was great!
- 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.
- Dan McDow San Luis Obispo POA
[My representative] is the poster face representative of the greatest attorney (representative) that anyone could possibly ask for. She gets a 12 out of 10 star rating. Nobody works harder.
- Robin Gonzalez Yolo Co. DSA
[My representative was] very quick to respond, helpful and professional. Thank you!
- Christopher Walters Antioch POA
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.
- 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.
- Katherine Comesana Mountain View POA
Hope to never in a situation again, however, glad to know that LDF is there to help.
- 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!
- Michael Shephard Suisun City POA
LDF is a very valuable resource. I would not do this job without it.
- Melissa Geraci Oakland POA
This is my 1st time using LDF and was very pleased with the service I got. [My representative] was so friendly & always returned my calls & even called to update me without provocation.
- Scott Cox Tulare Co DSA
I just want to say [my representative] did a great job! Thank you.
- Chris Lyon Tulare Co DSA
Very thorough group of sharp/smart government concerned [attorneys]. They understood what was happening and briefed me on everything. I was very impressed.
- Gina Romines San Joaquin Co Corr POA
I couldn't have been more satisfied with the representative!
- 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.
- Jon Seabron Oceanside POA
[My Representative] was the best and if I ever need to call al lawyer again for anything, I'll be calling her.
- Kenneth Nelson Plumas Co SA
Good job. Thank you! [My representative] does an outstanding job representing the employees and seems to be very intimidating to the [County Management]. We like it this way!
- Patrick Davis Oakland POA
Very knowledgeable and thorough and would use the rep again.
- Joseph Barrett LA Airport POA
I was very well represented by a professional. I felt well represented and got great advice.
- Robert Muelberg Denver PPA
I could not have had a better attorney. [My representative ] went way above and beyond his duties. I would not have had a better experience with my representative. I believe that the LDF is the single most important benefit a police officer could have!
- 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.
- Paul Spencer Santa Paula POA
[My Representative] was great!
- 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.
- Cherie Rye Lyon Co SEA
I am very happy with the service I received from LDF. I am grateful that our association includes LDF as part of our dues.
- John M. Laser Oceanside POA
[My representative] always took my calls or returned them within hours. Put my mind at ease and kept me well informed. LDF is well served by this law firm!
- Scott Muir Tracy POA
Very satisfied with the service I was given.
- Christopher Adams Modesto POA
Thank you for all your help!
- 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.
- James Stephenson Petaluma POA
Outstanding service. Thanks.
- Paul Hernandez LA Gen Services POA Inc.
[My Representative] was very helpful in my situation and I can't thank him enough.
- Jeff Stanley Upland POA
Excellent program, no one should be without this coverage.
- Sean Tinney Berkeley PA
[My representative] was very attentive to my case and thorough with his investigation. I would request [him] again in the future.
- 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.
- Roman Fernandez Inglewood POA
My representatives were always well-prepared and organized for hearings and meetings. Their efforts, hard work and full support is truly appreciated.
- 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!
- Emery Eccle Culver City POA
LDF is THE most important asset / resource that police officers have. "Thank you" to all involved and keep up the good work!
- James Hika Border Patrol Supervisors Association
They did a great job!
- James Beckman Miracosta College POA
Excellent service everytime.
- Jorge Garcia San Joaquin Co Corr Officers
No criticism to give. Very well.
- Thomas E. Lorente III Bart POA
[My representative] did an excellent job! I would highly recommend him to any officer in need of LDF services.
- Andrew Hill Statewide University PA
I have used this law firm for union related business for the last several years. It was a no brainer to call them for LDF.
- James F. Beland Lake County SDA
- Roy Iler San Benito CO LEM
[My representative] always returned phone calls and let me know if he was contacted with information.
- Chris Moore Palo Alto POA
No Complaints. Great Resource.
- Gary Silva East Bay Region Parks POA
Thank you for providing this service. My experience with LDF was very much to my satisfaction.
- Brendan Dolan Milwaukee PA
Everything went very smooth and they handled everything! Thank you.
- Ernest Marugg San Diego Deputy DA Association
The LDF responded immediately upon my request for counsel. LDF provided the best representative I could receive! When I called LDF for advice, I was given advice again immediately. Thank you LDF for your concern.
- Steven E. Lopez Santa Maria POA
Keep up the Good Work! Your service was extremely helpful to me. Thank you.
- 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!!
- Jason Kearsing Elk Grove POA
Very happy with LDF.
- Christopher M. Fuzie Modesto POA
I was very impressed with the speed at which the case was handled. Thank you!
- Andrew J. Brice Santa Maria POA
As always... an excellent result.
- Shandon Murphy San Mateo POA
Great work! Thank you so much!
- Byron Kies Santa Barbara Co DSA
Everything was great!
- Andrea Salas Sonoma County DSA
[My Representative] was great! Thank you.
- Brad Young Oakland POA
[ My representative ] is an awesome attorney.
- John Tinder Chino POA
Having an LDF attorney who is experienced, knowledgeable and professional is an outstanding quality. [My representative ]exhibit all of these qualities and more. They are outstanding and I would not entrust my career to anyone else!
- 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.
- Tia Dixione Inglewood POA
My representative was very helpful and informative.
- Christine Farmer Tehama Co DSA
Mine was a fairly simple situation and I may not have needed representative. I am glad I called for help, it gave me peace of mind and reassurance.
- William Burdette Newport Beach PMA
26 years and I have never needed a LDF rep, but the one time you need one, it was worth the fee’s paid.”
- Korey Lankow Assn Highway Patrol of Arizona
Outstanding service from bottom-to-top.
- Chad Sakamoto National City POA
Although this incident was unfounded, it's still stressful. My LDF rep kept me informed and kept "work" at work.
- Anthony Alonzo South Gate POA
Very pleased with the way the process was explained to me. Received updated info faster than I expected. Overall a good experience in a not so good situation. Thanks to LDF.
- Dennis Leach National City POA
[My Representative] is a knowledgeable attorney and I would highly recommend him to anyone needing representation.
- Daniel Smock Ventura County PPOA
Everything went smooth. I think the current system works very well.
- Jurell Snyder Oakland POA
My LDF representative had a power point presentation, which was extremely professional.
- Scot Hicks Humbolt County DSO
My experience was made much less stressful thanks to the LDF representation.
- Nestor Hernandez San Diego POA
This is a great program designed to protect LEO’s in need
- Clyde Williams San Diego Harbor POA
Thank you for all of the work related to my officer involved shooting case.
- 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.
- Gregg Palmer San Joaquin Co Corr POA
Everything was explained very well prior to my questioning. I was not worried at all during the investigation. Very professional and a great asset to its members.
- Anthony Zack Vernon POA
This was the first time in my twenty-five year career that I had to use the services of my legal defense fund. My LDF Representative was extremely courteous, informative and professional.. She addressed all of my concerns and answered all of my questions. She did an overall outstanding job of representing me and handling my case. I could not have been any more pleased or satisfied with the job she did! I would definitely request her to represent me in the future if I needed representation.
- Michael Kan Palo Alto POA
I have always been and will continue to be a strong supporter of LDF and would not work as a police officer without it. I am extremely happy with the service I have received both from LDF and [my representative].
- Kenneth S. Blonski East Bay Regional Parks PMA
I was very pleased with my representative.
- Nick Bannister Phoenix LEA
I was extremely grateful for professional representation provided by ( my attorney ) during this extremely stressful situation
- Kevin Hullquist Siskiyou Co. Correctional POA
[My representative] did a good job representing me. Kept me informed.