Arbitrator Reverses Five Day Suspension of Springfield Police Officer

In a recent arbitration award, Reardon, Joyce & Akerson, P.C. (“RJA”) successfully represented a Springfield police officer in connection with a five day suspension.

Prior to the five day suspension, the officer, who was not at that point a member of the Massachusetts Police Association Legal Defense Fund, had been suspended from his duties based upon various allegations, including that the officer had not been in proper uniform at the start of his shift.  Without the benefit of the Legal Defense Fund at that time, the officer served the suspension.

Following that discipline, the officer joined the Legal Defense Fund.

Later, in 2015, the officer was working a private road detail in the City.  At the time, the officer was carrying a radio and a firearm, but was not wearing a hat, badge, uniform shirt and was not carrying a baton, handcuffs or pepper spray.  A supervisor who encountered the officer on that detail ordered the officer back to his locker at the station to retrieve those various items before returning to the detail.

The officer did as instructed.  Thereafter, the officer was asked for a report concerning the matter and, after submitting his report, was issued a five day suspension by the appointing authority, the Police Commissioner.

The officer, now a member of the Legal Defense Fund, challenged the suspension before an arbitrator.

At the arbitration, evidence was presented that the Springfield Police Department had issued no written rules or regulations that required the carrying of handcuffs, a baton or pepper spray while working a road detail.  While the Department did have written rules that required officers, at all times and including on road details, to wear hats and badges, evidence also was presented that other officers on many other occasions, had been dressed in a similar fashion for detail work.  The evidence also showed that the Department had not disciplined those officers in any way, and certainly not as harshly as with a five day suspension.  On other occasions, when supervisors had observed officers without hats or badges, the officers simply had been told to put on the hats and badges and the matter went no further.

After closing briefs, the arbitrator ruled in favor of the officer.  She concluded that there were no written rules requiring officers to carry batons, handcuffs and spray while working road details, and she further determined that there was no practice within the Department that such items be carried by officers working road details.  As to the written rules concerning hats and badges, the arbitrator concluded that the rules were not enforced regularly and no one previously had been disciplined for violations.  For those reasons, the arbitrator concluded that the City of Springfield lacked just cause for any discipline whatsoever of the officer.  The officer’s suspension was rescinded and the City was ordered to make the officer whole, including paying him for the lost five days of pay and expunging references to the suspension from Department records.  The City did not appeal the award and the matter now is final.

When the officer was not a member of the Legal Defense Fund, a suspension for uniform violations was issued and served.  When the officer was a member of the Legal Defense Fund, a suspension for uniform violations was rescinded by an arbitrator.

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