MICHAEL D. McCOY
GASPARD CASTILLO WINTER HARPER, APC
On June 29, 2010, two officers from the Placentia Police Department were dispatched to a call of two males fighting at the front of a residence. Upon their arrival, the officers made contact with the subjects and separated them. One subject, Mr. R, spoke English and told the officer that he and the other subject were roommates and the argument was about the second subject not paying his portion of the rent. The second subject, Mr. J, told the other officer that he spoke little English but that he and the first subject were romantically involved and that he had been slapped by the other subject. Due to the language issue with Mr. J, our client, Senior Officer J. Flores, was dispatched to the call approximately 20 minutes later as a translator. Upon his arrival, Officer Flores made contact with the handling officers and Mr. J. Officer Flores questioned Mr. J about his relationship with the other male and whether he had been slapped by Mr. R. Mr. J stated that he and Mr. R were roommates and that he had been slapped but did not want any police action taken. He told Officer Flores that he only wanted to gather his belongings and leave. While Officer Flores was speaking to Mr. J, the other officers walked away from the scene to the backyard of the residence with Mr. R and did not hear the conversation between Officer Flores and Mr. J. Officer Flores believed that a battery had occurred; however, Mr. J was an uncooperative victim and the call was cleared as “verbal only, parties advised.”
Approximately two hours later, Mr. J came to the front counter at the Placentia Police Department where he spoke to the watch commander, Sergeant J. Audiss. Mr. J told Audiss that he had been assaulted by his boyfriend, Mr. R, and wanted a report prepared. Due to the language barrier, Audiss enlisted the aid of a Spanish-speaking dispatcher to interview Mr. J. During this interview, Mr. J said he had been slapped, pushed, dragged on the ground and scratched by Mr. R. Mr. J then showed Audiss scratch marks on his back and stated he had shown “all” the officers at the scene his injuries. Audiss had a detective take pictures of the scratches, and directed the dispatcher to re-open the original call and to have Officer Flores contact Mr. J at the front counter. During his investigative interview, Audiss, who had been an officer for 25 years and a sergeant for nine of those years, stated he was “confused and concerned” that a report was not taken at the residence. Audiss was so “concerned” that he then went to lunch rather than speaking to Officer Flores, who was in the booking area of the department, less than 50 feet away. Officer Flores re-contacted Mr. J, who once again didn’t mention any injuries and stated he only wanted to report that Mr. R called him and threatened to have him deported. Officer Flores cleared the call as “unfounded” due to Mr. J’s statement and denial of any relationship with Mr. R.
Upon returning from lunch, Audiss saw that Officer Flores had cleared the call without taking a report. Again, he said he was “confused and concerned.” Rather than speak to Officer Flores, Audiss contacted Patrol Lieutenant Pascarella to ask his advice on how to handle this perceived problem. Audiss was asked at hearing why, with all his experience, he contacted the patrol commander for what seemed to be nothing more than a miscommunication between the officers and Mr. J., Audiss stated, “Because I hadn’t had a whole lot of experience going down the disciplinary road.” Pascarella directed Audiss to interview the two officers originally dispatched to the call and to interview Mr. J again to “lock down his story.” During this interview, Mr. J recanted his statement regarding showing the officers his injuries and stated he had only shown Officer Flores the scratch marks.
At the end of watch, Audiss called Officer Flores to the watch commander’s office, and behind closed doors with another sergeant present, questioned Officer Flores about his beat assignment and his failure to properly document a domestic violence incident. Officer Flores stated that he was assigned to that particular beat, along with the original officer who had been dispatched. The sergeant asked several times about whose responsibility it was to take a report and who the handling officer was at the scene. After being accused several times of being the handling officer and of failing to properly report the DV incident, Officer Flores stated, “If that’s what you believe, I guess I was the handling officer, so be it.” The Department took that as an admission by Officer Flores of his failure to report the incident.
The Department eventually charged Officer Flores with four allegations of policy violations and imposed a 60-hour suspension. No other officers were charged, despite the original handling officer admitting several times that he believed a domestic violence incident had occurred and that he had failed to take a report. Officer Flores appealed the suspension and two days of arbitration ensued.
The arbitrator determined that the lead officer dispatched to the call was the handling officer. He was one of the officers initially dispatched and was the first to arrive. The second officer was assigned to another beat and was dispatched as a cover officer. The arbitrator went on to say, “Based on the facts of this case, there is no rational way that one could assume that the appellant (Flores) went from a translator to the lead officer. It was the original officer’s responsibility to file a criminal report if he believed domestic violence had occurred between R and J.” The arbitrator also noted that Audiss overlooked the fact that in the photos taken by the detective at the Department, Mr. J is wearing a green shirt with no tear and that the original officer had advised Audiss that, at the scene, Mr. J was wearing a red shirt that was slightly stretched. The arbitrator questioned the fact that rather than waiting for Officer Flores to contact Mr. J and speak to him together at the front counter, Audiss left for a meal break and told Mr. J what to say to Officer Flores. Mr. J admitted to Audiss later and at hearing that he did not say what he had been told to say by Audiss. Audiss admitted he did not know what had been discussed between Officer Flores and Mr. J on either occasion. The arbitrator stated in his decision, “If there was confusion as to what Mr. J had told the patrol officers, why didn’t Audiss call the appellant and meet with him and Mr. J to straighten out any confusion?”
The arbitrator determined that “Audiss wanted a criminal report filed and in time filed the report himself.” He went on to say that Audiss did not interview a witness, Mr. V, who testified at hearing that he was a neighbor, had a clear view of the incident and did not see any physical altercation, nor did he see Mr. J lift his shirt to show any officer any injuries to his back.
The arbitrator concluded by saying, “It is clear from the evidence that the appellant did not engage in conduct for which he was disciplined.” As such, the allegations and the suspension were overturned in their entirety.
About the Author
A former officer with the Colton Police Department, Mike McCoy obtained his law degree in 2008 and service retired in 2009 to begin working as an LDF panel attorney. He has a B.S. degree from Cal Poly, Pomona, in Public Administration.
McCoy has handled all aspects of disciplinary matters, from interviews to Skelly through appeal hearings, and has handled labor relations matters including grievances, client referrals and general counsel matters. He is a part of the critical incident response team that responds to officer involved shootings and in-custody deaths involving any number of officers, and also handles DMV hearings, unemployment hearings and administrative discipline cases.
PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.
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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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[My representative was] great! She kept me informed and was very professional. She would be my choice if I should need her services in the future! (But I hope I won't) Thanks!
- 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.
- Roy Iler San Benito CO LEM
[My representative] always returned phone calls and let me know if he was contacted with information.
- 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].
- William Jackson Santa Maria POA
Keep up the great work.
- Allison Clark Twin Cities POA
[My representative] is the best attorney LDF has. Her attention to details, professionalism, and intelligence were off the charts. If I did not have her as a rep I would probably be out of a job. She is fair and she was honestly concerned about me, my family and my case.
- Steven Moorehouse Redding POA
You guys are Great! Very professional and well informed. THANK YOU!
- 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.
- Brent Teasley ERS/Reno PSAEA
[ My representative ] was bogged down with multiple cases when he represented me, but I feel he did an excellent job. I would not have wanted anyone else to represent me during a very troublesome time.
- Evelyn Hooks Shasta CO PPOA
Thank God for the L.D.F.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Nicholas Ward Antioch POA
[ Representative ] did a great job. My case was extremely complicated and difficult. She did a great job.
- Korey Lankow Assn Highway Patrol of Arizona
Outstanding service from bottom-to-top.
- Katie Angermiller Tuolumne Co DSA
I was very satisfied with the work the LDF performed. The lawyers and clerical staff at [law firm] were all very kind, professional and they always assisted me when I called and never made me feel like I was a burden. Thank you LDF!
- 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.
- Christopher Boyd Carlsbad POA
[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.
- Jurell Snyder Oakland POA
My LDF representative had a power point presentation, which was extremely professional.
- James F. Beland Lake County SDA
- 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!
- Erick Gaunt Palos Verdes POA
- Andrea Salas Sonoma County DSA
[My Representative] was great! Thank you.
- Robert Curato Anderson POA
He did a great job for me!!! He always returned my phone calls within 24-hours. He showed an interest in my case and we were able to get the issue resolved in less than 45 minutes. Thank you for being there when I needed the legal assistance.
- 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.
- 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.
- Scott Hamilton San Bernardino Co SEBA
Don't go to work without LDF!
- Christopher M. Fuzie Modesto POA
I was very impressed with the speed at which the case was handled. Thank you!
- 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.”
- 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.
- Rodney Kirkland Oakland POA
Being a police officer in the city of Oakland, I appreciate the services that are offered.
- Michelle Foerder Pinole PEA
I thank God for the support of LDF and my attorney. I had a letter of intent to be fired and he helped me turn it all around. I still have my job and I'm so grateful.
- Anthony Russo Clark Co School District
The members of my Association are very pleased with the level of representation that PORAC has given to us. As the President I can not thank you all enough.
- Marco Flores Ventura County PPOA
Great program. I was lost until the attorneys explained the situation. I was very impressed and satisfied. Thanks LDF.
- Scot Hicks Humbolt County DSO
My experience was made much less stressful thanks to the LDF representation.
- 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.
- Andrew J. Brice Santa Maria POA
As always... an excellent result.
- Juan Espinoza Fresno DSA
[My representative] did a great job. He is both thorough and well educated. I would use him again.
- Gary J. Foppiano Oakland POA
[My representative] has been in my corner for 28 years. I have been represented by this firm probably 6 times in my career from minor to major discipline cases with a great outcome for me. They're batting 100%
- 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.
- Christopher Delaney Upland POA
Your rep was very personal. Even though my case involved something minor, your rep made me [feel] my case was his most important. I am very satisfied with my LDF team.
- Juan Pascua, Jr. San Diego Co DSA
Very helpful and very informative!
- Noe Cordero San Diego POA
Thank you for your help. I feel very secure as you assisted me.
- Gina Reyes Broadmoor POA
[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.
- Gina Romines San Joaquin Co Corr POA
I couldn't have been more satisfied with the representative!
- Byron Kies Santa Barbara Co DSA
Everything was great!
- Jeff Griffin Downey POA
My experience with the LDF, and in particular my attorney, was extremely positive. [ My attorney ] worked very hard and kept me informed along the way.
- Nestor Hernandez San Diego POA
This is a great program designed to protect LEO’s in need
- Nancy Page Aurora PA
I didn't end up needing his service but he was awesome in what conversations we had before the matter was resolved. Very valuable - LDF!
- Brad Young Oakland POA
[ My representative ] is an awesome attorney.
- 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.
- Jeff Stanley Upland POA
Excellent program, no one should be without this coverage.
- 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.
- Robin Gonzalez Yolo Co. DSA
[My representative was] very quick to respond, helpful and professional. Thank you!
- Shandon Murphy San Mateo POA
Great work! Thank you so much!
- Michael Sexton Manteca POA
[My representative] was awesome.
- Scott Cox Tulare Co DSA
I just want to say [my representative] did a great job! Thank you.
- Rachael Van Sloten Oakland POA
LDF is absolutely essential to help make a system that is somewhat broken work more effectively. [My Representative] is excellent and takes a great deal of time to lisen and represent.
- 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.
- Nick Bannister Phoenix LEA
I was extremely grateful for professional representation provided by ( my attorney ) during this extremely stressful situation
- Paul Hernandez LA Gen Services POA Inc.
[My Representative] was very helpful in my situation and I can't thank him enough.
- 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.
- Greg Harman Kensington POA
[My representative] is the best!!
- Heather Fontes San Joaquin Co POA
I appreciated the thorough follow up by LDF staff. Many thanks and blessings for the work by LDF.
- Patrick Beggs Fresno Co DSA
Good service. Thank you.