LCW Upholds Termination Of Police Officer Who Used The City Credit Card For Unauthorized Expenses And Lied About It

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Jan 05, 2023

LCW Partner Jesse Maddox and Associate Attorney Sue Renfro secured the termination of a police officer for dishonesty.  The City’s Chief of Police had coordinated for the officer to attend a multi-day Basic Traffic Collision Investigation course.  The officer asked whether her mileage would be reimbursed if she drove her personal vehicle to attend the training.  She was informed that the City did not reimburse mileage on personal vehicles if a training vehicle was available.  Instead of pursuing the availability of a training vehicle, the officer drove her personal vehicle to the training and used the City credit card for fuel.

Because fuel expenses needed to be charged to a specific training vehicle unit number, the officer was later asked what unit number to include on the receipts.  Instead of answering ‘none’ because she had taken her personal vehicle, the officer mislead her superiors in several conversations in an attempt to have them endorse her actions.

The IA investigation found the officer falsely told her supervisors she had sent emails attempting to obtain a training vehicle but received no response, when in fact she had not sent any emails to that effect.  The officer also falsely told both her supervisors that no training vehicles had been available, a statement that she later denied making during her IA interview.  Moreover, the investigator found the officer never had any intention to take a training vehicle, which contradicted her earlier statements about attempting to obtain a training vehicle.

On appeal, the hearing officer found the officer made numerous dishonest and misleading statements.  The hearing officer also rejected her argument that “There is no harm to the public in this case.”  Instead, the hearing officer emphasized that dishonesty goes to the heart of public trust, and “[i]n an age where police officers are heavily scrutinized, and their behavior tracked, filmed, and dissected, public trust is of utmost importance.”  The hearing officer upheld the termination as appropriate by relying on citations to several public safety cases emphasizing the importance of public trust, honesty, and credibility in a police officer’s duties.

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