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Legal Articles

The FTO Process—A Once-in-a-Career Opportunity

By Matt Dolan, Attorney

The probationary employment period presents public safety leaders with a unique opportunity to evaluate performance, identify “red flags” and take proactive measures to address misconduct. For most officers, the close supervision and continual feedback that they receive from their Field Training Officers (FTOs) during this period will not be replicated for the entirety of their career. If, during this period, FTOs find probationary officers to demonstrate fundamental job deficiencies, there is no better time to have the difficult but critical conversation concerning whether the officer is salvageable.

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“Gypsy Cops”: Does Your Agency Have a Policy?

By Matt Dolan, Attorney

The intense media spotlight placed on law enforcement in recent years has often been one-sided, unfair or even disingenuously slanted against the profession. However, at least one area of scrutiny should be welcomed by law enforcement professionals: the nation-wide problem of agency hopping, problem-prone individuals known as “gypsy cops”.

For years, law enforcement leaders have been aware of this widespread problem within the profession. A very small number of toxic individuals are bouncing from agency to agency, leaving a trail of lawsuits, depleted community trust and YouTube® moments in their wake. What is most frustrating is the fact that they keep getting hired.

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Sexual Harassment Liability in Public Safety

By Matt Dolan, Attorney

The national media has placed a keen focus on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace over the past several weeks.  Media and political figures are accused of sexual misconduct and, possibly even more importantly, a multitude of men and women in positions of power are found to have been aware of misconduct to some extent but did little to prevent or report it.

As disturbing as these well-known cases are, the steady flow of accusations against some in public safety are, in many respects, more concerning.  Not because police officers or firefighters are routinely engaging in some of the types of misconduct reported out of Hollywood, but because the men and women of public safety are expected to uphold higher standards than celebrities and media moguls. 

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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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Developing Organizational Performance Leadership