Arbitrator Issues Award Concluding That A Danvers Police Sergeant’s Ten Day Suspension Was Unjustified

RJA recently obtained a major victory for one of its clients, a sergeant with the Danvers Police Department. In 2017, the Danvers Police Department received a call that a firearm had been discharged into a residence while no one was home, with the bullet striking the exterior of the building and penetrating into the home. The Town later accused a sergeant involved in the police response that day of having violated a number of different rules of the Department for the way that he handled the response. The Town suspended the sergeant for ten days.

RJA appealed the discipline to an arbitrator, who presided over a two day hearing. After lengthy closing briefs were submitted by counsel on both sides, the arbitrator issued a seventy-one page award concluding that the Town violated the union contract by suspending the sergeant.

In her award, the arbitrator agreed with RJA’s arguments almost entirely and rejected every rule violation brought forward but one. The one rule violation left standing at that point was a regulation that required members of the Department to notify the command staff of any serious or unusual incident occurring in Town, with a list of examples that included “shootings.” During the hearing, RJA was able to present evidence that, in the past, while the command staff would be notified of a “shooting” when it was a person that had been shot, the command staff was not notified when a gun was used to shoot at a building. A captain in the Department at the time of the prior event told the sergeant that the command staff did not have to receive notification in that type of shooting because the rule applied to the shooting of a person, not the shooting of a building. That was why, in this instance, the sergeant did not make a notification to the command staff. To the extent that the present administration of the Department interpreted the rule differently, the arbitrator concluded that the sergeant should have received no more than a verbal directive as to how this administration was going to apply the rule. The arbitrator found that no other action was warranted, the ten day suspension was improper and the sergeant should receive his lost pay and benefits suffered from the wrongful suspension.

RESULT: An award from the arbitrator concluding that the suspension was unjustified.
RJA Counsel: Andrew J. Gambaccini