By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com
We often represent law enforcement officers in disciplinary defense matters. Our law firm represents federal, state and local law enforcement officers that find themselves subject to disciplinary actions, including suspensions or terminations, relating to both on duty and off duty conduct. When facing such an action one of the first important steps to take is to evaluate which general orders from the department involved apply, could apply or might apply.
Once you have determined which general orders are applicable, one can start to
plan and outline the police officer’s defense to the proposed disciplinary action.
General Order Basics
Each police department, whether federal law enforcement or local law enforcement generally maintain a set of general orders which govern procedures within the department. Typically, these are provided to police officers upon hire and then are updated as needed. Each police department is different in their practices regarding the training provided to officers regarding these general orders. Some departments
provide officers extensive training on what is contained in the general orders, while
others do not. Either way, when an issue or incident arises, each officer is expected to know and follow the rules and procedures contained therein. When a problem arises, the departments first response will be to contend that the officer had a duty to know the contents of all of the general orders and to follow them.
How General Orders Can Help in Officer Defense Cases
General orders, however, are a two-way straight. Not only do they apply to officers but they also apply to managers. This fact can help officers when defending against disciplinary actions. When facing a proposed disciplinary action, the first step in a case is to review the proposed disciplinary charges. When our law firm represents police officers, our next step is to obtain a copy of the relevant general orders which impact the alleged charges in question. Typically, there is always a department general order that covers the department's disciplinary process. There also usually tends to be a general order that covers general misconduct or conduct unbecoming charges which can be helpful in outlining a police officer’s disciplinary defense.
In addition, we also check for general orders that outline procedures that are related to the specific charges at issue. For instance, if a charge alleges misconduct by the officer regarding the use of his/her government vehicle, we request a copy of the general order which covers vehicle usage and policy. Or, in cases where it is alleged
that an improper arrest was performed, we ask for a copy of the general order
which covers the specific arrest procedures for the department. Often times you can find that the department has not followed their own policies that they are attempting to hold the officer to. Other general orders involving how investigations into misconduct are to be conducted can be helpful to an officer's defense as well.
It is fundamentally important for an officer to review and utilize their departmental general orders in preparing for their legal defense when legal defense becomes necessary.
When a law enforcement officer is facing a disciplinary action it is important to obtain the advice of counsel. A police officer will want to obtain legal advice prior to responding to a disciplinary action. Our law firm stands ready to advise federal, state and local police officers in their disciplinary defense. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070.