Before I get into my rant, let me say without any question that there is a need for departmental discipline. I’ve been as consistent about this as one can be, from my first days in the union to my position today.
The reality is that some members deserve discipline for one reason or another. They just aren’t cut out for this work, or they just don’t have any business in law enforcement. Those who know me know that, and I’ve testified to that many times. It’s the harsh, unfortunate reality.
The rules of internal affairs are about as clear as you can get. As of today, it’s 74 pages long.
What isn’t so clear is how discipline is handled. There are vast differences from agency to agency. What would garner a written reprimand or a day off in one department might be a brief conversation and a handshake in briefing the next day in another department. Those decisions we will leave with the bosses and their respective agencies, which is exactly where they belong.
So what is the gripe, you ask?
Why the headline tease?
Well, I’ve been to a LOT of hearings over the years. Some much more memorable than others. Many have perfectly fit the phrase “kangaroo court.”
I’ve been poring over the IA guidelines, the West Point Command & Leadership syllabus, the FBI National Academy training and even that hack New Jersey Internal Affairs class outline. Try as I might, I can’t seem to find where discipline should be directly associated with how tight your underwear got that day.
If someone can point that out to me…please. Our number is listed. Figuring out how we can stop that sure will save a ton of time, energy, embarrassment and a whole boatload of money. (My apologies to our attorneys out there.)
Once again in May, I attended another expensive hearing that was completely unnecessary. And hindsight will prove to us (as it has over and over again) that expensive, unnecessary hearings will usually lead to expensive, unnecessary appeals, which usually lead to some very expensive settlements.
So don’t celebrate your victory at the departmental hearing just yet. It will likely be short-lived.
The part that is so mind-boggling, especially in some of these smaller departments with limited financial resources, is that whoever signs these checks doesn’t see that when they got to that important fork in the road, they picked the wrong one. Smarter heads should have prevailed at some point.
But nope, let’s go all the way down the road. Let’s hire an outside attorney. Let’s find a hack hearing officer. And let’s pore over the rules and regulations for additional charges. Let’s burn some midnight oil, a load of copy paper and a whole PILE of cash!
My personal favorite is when the hack hearing officer doesn’t rule in your favor, then you throw out their findings. That’s a gem. The only problem is, when somebody without the tight underwear, like an appellate judge, for example, sees right through the case for the sham that it is, the check-writing gets bigger and bigger. When your personal appetite for a chunk of flesh outweighs any semblance of professionalism or
common sense, look in the mirror and not at the union.
I’ve become a broken record to a lot of you. If the officer is truly that bad, he or she will eventually hand themselves to you on a large, ornate silver platter. Be patient.
But if you just can’t believe that someone would have the audacity to question your authority to discipline, or they have been a thorn in your side, or they are knowledgeable union leaders or (insert 20 other ridiculous reasons here), you will likely find yourself on the losing end of the hearing, appeal and eventual lawsuit.
You can yell and scream about it all you would like, but that won’t improve morale or the working conditions in your agency one bit. Because you see, ladies and gentlemen, in those agencies, somebody will be next when that sham is over.
Good morale and respect can’t be ordered in an SOP. It is earned.