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Elko PDEA DUI, appropriate penalty

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2012 at 09:16AM

The LDF has defended Nevada peace officers for over a decade. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that discipline is often meted out in an inconsistent and arbitrary manner.

Elko Police Officer David Turnbull and the Elko POA asked the LDF board of trustees to provide affirmative relief coverage to assist with this problem. Turnbull received a 15- day suspension for an off-duty DUI. Normally, coverage for a “non-scope” action would end with a Loudermill Hearing; a Skelly in California. Nevertheless, the board used its powers under the Plan Document, finding that this case could have an impact on all Nevada peace officers.

The City of Elko has a ” bail schedule” for disciplining officers, ranging from “minor” to “very serious.” We argued that this first time offense did not warrant the hefty suspension. Further, it was inconsistent with prior disciplinary decisions by the department. Finally, the “bail schedule” had not been negotiated with the association. Thus it was arguably in violation of Nevada’s mandatory bargaining law.

LDF panel attorney Mark Kilburn, of Reno, prepared the case for arbitration. Shortly before the arbitration Kilburn and the city’s attorney entered into negotiation that led to a settlement. Turnbull’s discipline was reduced to a 7-day suspension with no “last chance letter” as the city originally demanded. Moreover, the city agreed to negotiate discipline for future same or similar circumstances.

What do we take away form this case? Police associations in Nevada and elsewhere must be vigilant about discriminatory discipline practices. If the association does not move aggressively to ensure uniformity it opens the door to “duty affair representation” issues. Furthermore, if officers perceive an ongoing pattern of unfairness, morale is likely to decline which can lead to a host of other problems for the association. The LDF will continue to monitor this issue.

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