ANDREW M. DAWSON
DAWSON & RILEY, LLP
Many have heard that if a department wants to get rid of an officer, it will drum up anything to do so. This case is a perfect example of a department doing just that — removing an officer that it wanted out of the K-9 unit. This case was composed of untimely evaluations, double standards and unofficial testing to try to justify the removal of an Inglewood Police K-9 officer. Thanks to the representation of Dawson & Riley, LLP, the arbitrator was able to see through the unsubstantiated justification and ordered the officer’s reinstatement to the K-9 unit.
In April 2009, the appellant was assigned to the K-9 unit. During K-9 school with his assigned K-9 partner, obvious signs of issues with the K-9 were observed by the trainers; however, the K-9 supervisors insisted on keeping the dog, rather than exchanging him for another. The appellant worked with his assigned K-9 for almost a year before the K-9 supervisors and staff finally realized that the appellant “had been teamed with an extremely resilient K-9 who at times has been slow in responding to training. But the training issues observed may be a byproduct of the dog’s overall temperament, which could prove that the dog is unsuitable for police work with this agency.” The K-9 was eventually returned to the vendor and replaced with K-9 Ares at no charge to the Department. Although his first K-9 had obvious temperament problems, the appellant worked hard with him and received an above-standard evaluation during that time period.
In June 2010, the appellant started school with his new K-9 partner, Ares. The appellant and Ares successfully completed a six-week K-9 school. In July 2011, a lieutenant was transferred back to the K-9 unit after an approximate one-year absence. Shortly thereafter, in September 2011, a sergeant was assigned as the K-9 sergeant. During that same month, the appellant was due to go through POST recertification with his K-9 partner. As with past practice, POST recertification was set up through Inglewood P.D.’s contracted vendor. The appellant and his K-9 partner successfully passed POST recertification, which was good for the next year.
Despite the appellant’s successful completion of the POST recertification, all three K-9 teams were notified they would be put through an “unofficial” POST certification test. During this unofficial, in-house POST certification testing process, the appellant was unsuccessful in getting his K-9 partner to pass two portions of the test.
As a result, the appellant was sent to the K-9 business of a good friend of the lieutenant’s for six days of remedial training. The lieutenant’s friend conducted the remedial training despite the City’s prior use of contracted vendors for such training and the lack of a contract between the lieutenant’s friend and the City. During these six days, the friend afforded the appellant only about 30-45 minutes per day of remedial training in the area that was needed. The remainder of the eight-hour training days were spent participating in exercises unrelated to the issues that the appellant was experiencing with his K-9 partner.
After the six days of training, the appellant was given the POST test by a friend of the new trainer. The appellant passed one portion of the test (“call-off”), which he had had problems with before, and failed the other portion of the test, which was a “verbal out” of the dog. One of the evaluations written by the new trainer prior to the test stated, “I do expect him to ‘out,’ but I also think it unreasonable to make him perform in less than five days.”
The day after the test, the appellant’s lieutenant and the two other IPD K-9 teams conducted training to attempt to work on the issue with the dog. By the end of the night, they made more progress and the appellant was able to get his K-9 to “verbally out.” The lieutenant acknowledged that they had made progress and that he saw improvement. They ended the training on a good note, and the appellant was told to return to work on Friday to continue where they left off in training. The following Friday, the appellant returned to work with the intent to train with his dog. After being called into the office by his lieutenant, the appellant was informed that they were taking his K-9 partner and removing him from the K-9 unit effective immediately.
While assigned to the K-9 unit, the appellant had never received unfavorable evaluations, write-ups, verbal reprimands or had any accidental bites. All of his monthly evaluations from the K-9 vendor had been “good” to “very good.” (As a side note, when the appellant’s counsel requested discovery of the appellant’s training records, several months of records had mysteriously disappeared.)
On the day of the Skelly hearing, the appellant was served with a “below standard” evaluation for the 2011–2012 period that was authored by his sergeant. This evaluation was served after they had already removed the appellant from the unit, and was three months later than the Department’s required procedure. A week later, the appellant was served with a “satisfactory” 2010–2011 evaluation after he had been served with the 2011–2012 evaluation.
Concurrent with the arbitration process, the appellant filed a grievance regarding his “below standard” evaluation written by the sergeant. As a result of the grievance filed, the Assistant City Manager ordered the sergeant and lieutenant to change the appellant’s evaluation from “below standard” to “satisfactory”, given their failure to follow Department policy.
During the arbitration, it was discovered that the sergeant made personal and adverse comments in his personal day planner regarding the appellant, which was arguably a violation of the appellant’s POBR rights. Additionally, the K-9 handler who inherited K-9 Ares experienced the same training issues with him as the appellant had. The issues, however, improved with the use of an e-collar during the new K-9 handler’s training with Ares. Not surprisingly, the appellant had requested to use the e-collar during his training with Ares, but was told that he could not use it. At the hearing, an expert witness testified on the appellant’s behalf that the issues with Ares could have been easily resolved with the use of the e-collar during training. Clearly, the Department imposed different standards on the appellant that were not applied to other employees.
The arbitrator concluded, “It is clear that both [the] sergeant and [the] lieutenant believed, and the evidence supports, that [the] grievant was not consistently in total compliance with these policy requirements when they recommended his removal from the K-9 unit. However, it is almost impossible to read [the] lieutenant’s justification for the removal recommendation and not to conclude that he believed, from the days that [the] grievant had his first dog, that [the] grievant didn’t have the capability of being a competent canine handler. It is a reasonable inference from [the] lieutenant’s testimony that he was not about to let the grievant have the training opportunity with an e-collar that might have allowed [the] grievant to qualify, although other handlers were allowed the use of an e-collar in training and, apparently, even the handler who inherited Ares was allowed to use an e-collar for training. In context, this decision was arbitrary and capricious, and became a self-fulfilling prophecy. When that is combined with the failure to give 90-days written notice of unacceptable performance, it violates the concept of good cause.”
The arbitrator held that the City of Inglewood did not have just cause to remove the appellant from the K-9 unit and ordered his reinstatement to the K-9 position with back pay.
The appellant is grateful to Dawson & Riley, LLP, the Inglewood Police Officers Association, PORAC LDF, and all of his fellow officers and K-9 handlers for the support he received in this journey to fight the injustices that occurred in this case.
About the Author
After a successful career as a law enforcement officer, Andrew Dawson was licensed to practice law in California in 1992. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from San Jose State University with a special major in law enforcement and received his Juris Doctor degree from Pepperdine University Law School.
Dawson specializes in defending police officers’ rights, and has successfully litigated wrongful termination, suspension and demotion cases involving allegations of excessive force, dishonesty, sexual harassment, misuse of property, department policy violations and criminal law matters. He has represented officers involved in internal affairs investigations, attending 1,000 internal affairs interrogations.
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- Erick Gaunt Palos Verdes POA
- Christopher Connally Assn of LEA
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].
- Alfredo Hernandez El Centro POA
[My representative] was very attentive, [informative] and knowledgeable. He spoke very clearly and explained things in ways easy to understand. [He] made me feel like he truly cared about what was going on with this case and me. Not to mention [he] was funny and witty, traits which made him trustworthy and someone who would stand by me and other police officers.
- Doug Plumhoff Ridgecrest PEA
Great job by all! Always great to know LDF is there when needed.
- Sherri Coral Riverside Community College
He was very professional. I trusted him to defend and he did! I am very thankful he was here for me.
- Paul Hernandez LA Gen Services POA Inc.
[My Representative] was very helpful in my situation and I can't thank him enough.
- Robin Gonzalez Yolo Co. DSA
[My representative was] very quick to respond, helpful and professional. Thank you!
- 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!
- Andrew J. Brice Santa Maria POA
As always... an excellent result.
- 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.
- Noe Cordero San Diego POA
Thank you for your help. I feel very secure as you assisted me.
- Patrick Davis Oakland POA
Very knowledgeable and thorough and would use the rep again.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- Tai Pena-Hornung Oakland POA
Those who foolishly feel LDF is not a valuable resource, do so only because they have not yet needed legal representation.
- German Alvarez Anaheim PA
[My representative ] was great!
- 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.
- Dan Lovelace Chandler LEA
Thank you for the funding and support. I would be in jail right now if it were not for LDF. I would not have had the funding to pay for the case. It was a tremendous help having [my representative] and his support team and the many experts supplied by LDF. I speak for myself, my family and other members of my association.
- 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.
- Alex Camarillo LASchool P A
[My Representative] did an excellent job with my case. He was very professional and kept me well informed throughout this case. Thank you for an awesome job.
- Kerry Carlson Midpeninsula Ranger POA
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
- Keith Braden Los Angeles School Police Mgmt Assn
Great work, no complaints.
- Stacey Bonilla San Mateo County DSA
[My Represenative] is an excellent attorney. He is very professional yet personable and I would definitely use him again. Thank you!
- Gina Romines San Joaquin Co Corr POA
I couldn't have been more satisfied with the representative!
- 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.
- Nestor Hernandez San Diego POA
This is a great program designed to protect LEO’s in need
- 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.
- 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.”
- Gilbert Salazar Montebello POA
Can’t say enough. Both representatives that I had in 2016 were excellent. ( My attorney ) made himself available to me in late night hours, which made me feel comfortable and at ease. This program is essential to us in law enforcement.
- Gerhard Wallace Santa Clara Co DSA
I think that [my representative] did a great job in presenting my case. I would recommend her to any deputy (officer) facing disciplinary action. My case was minor compared to other cases but [she] still did a professional job.
- 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.
- 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%
- Kevin Hullquist Siskiyou Co. Correctional POA
[My representative] did a good job representing me. Kept me informed.
- Christopher Wells Hollister POA
My rep was great.
- 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.
- Scott Cox Tulare Co DSA
I just want to say [my representative] did a great job! Thank you.
- 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.
- Matthew Gardner Colorado PPA
I would not want to be an officer without this coverage. It was great to have it and kept my mind at ease.
- Juan Pascua, Jr. San Diego Co DSA
Very helpful and very informative!
- Heather Fontes San Joaquin Co POA
I appreciated the thorough follow up by LDF staff. Many thanks and blessings for the work by LDF.
- 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.
- Korey Lankow Assn Highway Patrol of Arizona
Outstanding service from bottom-to-top.
- Malcolm Norrington LA School PA
I am very pleased with LDF and would use and recommend them again and again and again.
- 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.
- Scott King Ripon POA
[My representative] is the best LDF rep I have ever had. If I were to need an LDF rep again I would want it to be [my representative].
- 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.
- James Beckman Miracosta College POA
Highly recommend this program for any LEO!
- Rodney Kirkland Oakland POA
Being a police officer in the city of Oakland, I appreciate the services that are offered.
- 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.
- Robert Glock Oakland POA
I am always satisfied with LDF and all their representatives.
- Oliver Sansen Concord POA
In 14 years I have never had to deal with an "IA." [My representative] was wonderful & put my mind at ease throughout the entire process. Thank you!
- James Hika Border Patrol Supervisors Association
They did a great job!
- Stephen Woodward Palm Springs POA
Great job by my LDF lawyer. I have had to use them several times over my 20 year career and their service is invaluable.
- Steven E. Lopez Santa Maria POA
Keep up the Good Work! Your service was extremely helpful to me. Thank you.
- Tigran Topadzhikyan Glendale POA
[My representative] is an excellent attorney. I would use him again. He communicates with his clients and is very competent.
- 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.
- Tia Dixione Inglewood POA
My representative was very helpful and informative.
- 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.
- Jeff Stanley Upland POA
Excellent representation. [My representative] is a great attorney.