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Defending the Nuisance Charge
Every officer faces them. They are usually equipment violations, not cleaning the patrol car, forgetting to gas up the vehicle, smoking, not wearing your hat, forgetting your flashlight.... the little ways the Department reminds you that they care.
The problem with the nuisance charges is that you are more than likely guilty. After all, who among us has not forgotten our flashlight? our hat? or worse?
Since guilt is probably a given, the focus needs to turn on selective enforcement. If a policy is not enforced on a consistent basis is it still a policy that can be used for harassment purposes?
In my Department, the Municipal Court system was not very efficient, in fact, it was a nightmare. The names of the officers that were needed for court were posted on a computer printout sheet in the report room. This list changed almost daily as cases were added or deleted and there was never an indication that the list had been updated. Officers were showing up for court on their days off when they were not needed, cases were dismissed or "bargained away" by the Streets Crime Unit and no one notified the officers.
Eventually the officers stopped going to court when they had other plans and did not need the money. One officer who truly had to attend court would call the others on the list from the conference room if they were really needed, but this was rare. The only true way to determine if you were needed in court was to see if the Defendant was represented by an attorney. If he was, you were needed.
I checked the list on that day when I planned to go to the beach, and the Defendant was not represented. I enjoyed my day on the beach, much to the disgust of my Sgt. whom I was not getting along with at the time. He brought me up on a handful of charges.
Was I guilty? Yes.
Did I do the same thing everyone else was doing? Yes.
Should I be punished? I did not think so.
What did I do?
I filed a grievance with my Union for selective enforcement of Department rules and using that selective enforcement to harass me because I had an altercation with my Sgt.
Did my grievance have any merit? Probably not.
Is there such a thing? I really didn't know.
Next, I made a very long list of discovery items that I needed to prove that I was being singled out and receiving disparaged treatment. I would further prove that the policy pertaining to going to Municipal Court was not enforceable, as it was never used. The items I wanted included every court list for the past year (we held court twice a week), the disposition of every case, the name of every officer subpoenaed and whether or not they showed up (we had officer sign in sheets). I also demanded the names of the officers that had been charged for not showing up for court, the name of the charges that were brought against them and the outcome of the charges. (I knew there were none).
Of course, my Department never produced any documents (assuming they kept them). They were not going to give me the evidence to substantiate my grievance and instead dismissed the charges.
Another officer, who was charged with forgetting his flashlight and not wearing his hat while directing traffic simply brought his camera to work with him for the next two weeks and shot two rolls of film of officers that were without their flashlights and hats. Those charges were also dismissed.
So there is a way to fight the nuisance charges and it is worth it. Remember, the Administration will string together the nuisance charges to justify more serious charges against you. You do not need an attorney to fight these little charges and it is better to expend the energy now rather than fight to save your career later.
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