The procedures by which a law enforcement officer is disciplined for misconduct vary by department. Below are excerpts from police contracts in the Highlands. In every case, an officer can be represented by the union and/or an attorney at any interrogation or hearing. Agencies typically cite and follow due-process procedures outlined in state law for public employees.
City of Beacon
Disciplinary action shall follow within the provisions of Article V, Title B of the New York State Civil Service Law… The authority to suspend an employee of the department shall be exercised by the mayor, chief of police or acting chief of police. Other and subordinate officers shall have the authority to relieve a member of the department from duty for a period not to exceed 24 hours.
Suspensions shall be with full pay until such time as a final adjudication is made. [Added to current contract:] However, the city may suspend an employee without pay for 30 days, pending resolution of disciplinary charges, where such employee is criminally charged. During such suspension without pay, the employee may use accruals on the books [vacation or sick days], if he/she has any.
Village of Cold Spring
Employees who have completed 40 months of service with the village shall be entitled to the due-process protection set forth in New York State Civil Service Law Section 75.
The specific act(s) that warrants disciplinary action and the proposed sanction(s) shall be specifically contained in a Notice of Discipline… In the event the employee objects, he/she shall file a written notice with the employer and Police Benevolent Association [union] no later than 10 calendar days. The disciplinary procedure pursuant to [state law] provides for a hearing by an independent hearing officer at its final stage. The parties agree to [select from] the following panel of hearing officers [professional arbitrators]: 1. Joseph Wooley, 2. Jeffrey Selchick, 3. Alan Viani, 4. Roger Maher.
The hearing officer shall make findings of fact and a penalty recommendation, if any, and submit his/her findings and recommendations to the Village Board… In no event shall an employee who has been served with a Notice of Discipline be suspended without pay for a period not to exceed 30 calendar days. All fees and expenses of the hearing officer, if any, shall be paid by the employer. All hearings shall have a transcribed record provided at no cost to the employee or the PBA.
No employee who is the potential subject of a disciplinary investigation shall be interrogated unless and until the employee is provided with sufficient information to reasonably apprise the employee of the potential charges and specifications. The employee shall be informed of the name of the officer or officers in charge of the investigation. The interrogation shall normally be held during the employee’s tour of duty. [Otherwise], the employee shall be compensated according to the terms of this agreement.
The investigation shall normally take place at the Sheriff’s Office at 150 North Hamilton St., Poughkeepsie, or a substation. Home contacts of employees who are the subject of a disciplinary investigation for the purpose of interrogation are prohibited unless there is an ongoing criminal investigation.
Each employee shall be entitled to respond in writing to any complaint made against him and such response and any documentary evidence in support thereof shall be made a part of the investigation file. Employees shall be advised of the outcome of any disciplinary investigation against them whether or not charges are instituted.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no disciplinary proceeding shall be commenced more than six months after the occurrence of the last alleged infraction, incompetence or misconduct complained of unless an employee has been counseled regarding the subject matter of the offense during that period, in which event the limitations period is 18 months. The limitations periods set forth herein commence on the date of discovery by the employer or the date when the employer should have known of the alleged infraction, incompetence or misconduct, whichever is earlier.
The county may bring disciplinary charges against an employee within an 18-month period from the date the violation is discovered. A hearing will thereafter be conducted and a determination shall be made within 30 days after the hearing is concluded… Hearings upon charges will be conducted by a Hearing Board consisting of either three employees of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department or one hearing officer appointed by the sheriff.
The choice of having a three-member board or hearing officer shall be the choice of the accused employee. On the three-member hearing board, the presiding officer shall be of the rank of lieutenant or above, and one other officer shall be of the rank of sergeant or above, both of whom will be selected by the sheriff. The third officer may be named by the PBA, and if available, will be designated by the sheriff…
The Hearing Board officer(s) shall refrain from acquainting themselves with any facts or circumstances involving the accused or the subject matter of the hearing, except for a review of the pleadings.
Note: The contract between Putnam County and the deputy’s union was renewed by the Legislature on April 7 but marked “confidential,” so it was not immediately known if the disciplinary procedures changed. (Update: The agreement, received by The Current on June 16 after a Freedom of Information Law request, contains no changes to disciplinary procedures.)