Legal Articles

Performance Evaluations—Are They Helping Us or Hurting Us?

By Matt Dolan, Attorney

Why are we conducting performance evaluations and how are they making the agency better? These are fundamental questions for agencies that require standardized performance evaluations. Without clearly answering these questions, supervisors are often put in the position of pursuing the “path of least resistance” when it comes to conducting performance evaluations. This path is understandably tempting for supervisors, but it often results in serious agency problems relating to legal liability in discipline and promotions—not to mention officer morale.

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Confronting the “Gypsy Cops” Problem: Understanding State Statutes that Give Legal Protections to Those Who Speak Out

By Matt Dolan, Attorney

The national problem of “gypsy cops” is not a new one. Toxic officers engage in misconduct in one agency after another over the course of a career and, in the meantime, inflict damage to agency reputation and morale along the way. These officers leave one agency where they are widely known to be a serious problem only to find a new home with another agency where the behavior continues until it is time to move again.

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Political Retaliation Claims by Public Sector Employees

By Matt Dolan, Attorney

There is nothing new about the idea that personnel decisions made by sheriffs, mayors and appointed agency leaders were motivated by politics. The term politics in this context could mean any number of non-job related motivations for decision-making. It could be based on Republican versus Democrat or conservative versus progressive. And it could also be based simply on a sense that there is “a new sheriff in town”, literally or figuratively, and the employee in question “backed the wrong horse”. In other words, the employee took a risk by supporting the individual who ended up on the losing end of a local election.

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A Cell Phone Camera is NOT a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card

By Matt Dolan, Attorney

The proliferation of recording devices has resulted in a new reality for police officers: encountering civilians who are recording them as they do their job. While the Supreme Court has yet to give law enforcement officers a clear definition of the constitutional right to record (subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions), the writing is on the wall.

The overwhelming majority of courts that have taken up the question have concluded that the First Amendment prohibits officers from infringing upon a civilian’s right to record them in public while performing their official duties. This is particularly true when there is no question as to whether or not the civilian was lawfully present—meaning that the civilian was not ducking below police tape or otherwise placing themselves into a position where they are putting officer safety and/or investigations into jeopardy. Arrests motivated by the fact that a recording was taking place where a civilian was lawfully present have been tossed out by local prosecutors and have resulted in a multitude of lawsuits and settlements. Yet the YouTube® footage going viral often shows officers angrily asserting the act of recording is
illegal.

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Developing Organizational Performance Leadership