Phoenix Law Enforcement Association

Final Legislative Report

100% of PLEA and APA bills proposed to the legislature were signed into law by the Governor Janet Brewer.  Session has concluded and Arizona Police Officers have new protections that will ensure that when confronted with an investigation, they are afforded appropriate due process rights and protections and that there will be consequences, as there should be, for those who forget that those rights are to be respected and enforced.


The following legislative excerpts are from the actual bill summaries on the new laws written to protect you.

1. SB 2613- AZPOST Reporting

House Engrossed Bill

As passed by the House, HB 2613 allows the president or chief executive officer of an agency recognized law enforcement employee association within a law enforcement agency that represents the interests of peace officers to report to the board any peace officer misconduct and prohibits civil liability from being imposed on a law enforcement agency, president, or chief executive officer of an agency recognized law enforcement employee association within a law enforcement agency that represents the interests of peace officers if there has been good faith effort without malicious intent to verify that the information is accurate.

Senate Amendments

Allows AZPOST, with respect to officer misconduct, to do the following:

a)  Receive complaints of officer misconduct from any person, request agencies to conduct investigations and conduct independent investigations into whether an officer is in compliance with the minimum qualifications for officers;

b)  Deny, suspend, revoke or cancel the certification of an officer who is not in compliance with the qualifications; and

c)  Receive a complaint of officer misconduct from the President or chief executive officer (CEO) of an AZPOST recognized law enforcement association that represents the interest of certified officers if the association believes that an agency refused to investigate or made findings that are contradictory to prima facie evidence that an officer violated the qualifications.

Requires AZPOST to do the following if AZPOST finds that the law enforcement agency refused to investigate or made findings that contradicted prima facie evidence of a violation of officer qualifications:

a)  Conduct an independent investigation to determine whether the officer is in compliance with the qualifications; and

b)  Provide a letter of the findings based on the investigation to the President or CEO who made the complaint.

2. HB 2444 – Law Enforcement Discipline

Overview

HB2477 allows law enforcement officers who are witnesses relating to an investigation that could lead to another officer’s dismissal, demotion or suspension to have a representative available during the interview.

History

According to A.R.S.(Arizona Revised Statutes) § 38-1101, law enforcement officers and probation officers have the right to request representation during an interview that the employer reasonably believes will result in dismissal, demotion or suspension. Before the interview may begin, the employer must inform the law enforcement officer or the probation officer of the following information via a written notice:

  •  The specific nature of the investigation,
  • The officer’s status in the investigation,
  • All known allegations of misconduct that are the reason for the interview, and
  • The officer’s right to have a representative present at the interview.

Provisions

  • Defines law enforcement officer for the purposes of this section as: an individual who is certified by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, other than a person employed by a multi-county water conservation district or as a detention officer, juvenile detention officer or correction officer, other than a probationary employee who is employed by this state or a political subdivision of this state
  • Requires the employers of a law enforcement officer who is a witness relating to an investigation that could lead to another officer’s dismissal or demotion to allow the law enforcement officer or probation officer to have a representative of the officer present at no cost to the employer during the interview.
  • Requires the law enforcement officer to answer all questions asked by the officer’s department investigator.
  • Stipulates that all information obtained in the interview is considered proprietary and confidential and shall remain so until the subject of the interview is served with a notice of investigation by the employer and any admonitions ordered by the employer are redacted.
  • Allows the witness officer to discuss the interview with their employee representative or the representative’s legal counsel.
  • Stipulates that if the employee releases information without authorization, the employer may subject the employee who released the information to disciplinary action.
  • Establishes additional requirements for the representative.
  • Changes the circumstances in which the interview information is no longer confidential.
  • Specifies these requirements do not preempt other agreements.

3. HB 2477 – Witness Officer – Right to Representation

Overview

HB2477 allows law enforcement officers who are witnesses relating to an investigation that could lead to another officer’s dismissal, demotion or suspension to have a representative available during the interview.

History

According to A.R.S.(Arizona Revised Statutes) § 38-1101, law enforcement officers and probation officers have the right to request representation during an interview that the employer reasonably believes will result in dismissal, demotion or suspension. Before the interview may begin, the employer must inform the law enforcement officer or the probation officer of the following information via a written notice:

  • The specific nature of the investigation,
  • The officer’s status in the investigation,
  • All known allegations of misconduct that are the reason for the interview, and
  • The officer’s right to have a representative present at the interview.

Provisions

  • Defines law enforcement officer for the purposes of this section as: an individual who is certified by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, other than a person employed by a multi-county water conservation district or as a detention officer, juvenile detention officer or correction officer, other than a probationary employee who is employed by this state or a political subdivision of this state
  • Requires the employers of a law enforcement officer who is a witness relating to an investigation that could lead to another officer’s dismissal or demotion to allow the law enforcement officer or probation officer to have a representative of the officer present at no cost to the employer during the interview.
  • Requires the law enforcement officer to answer all questions asked by the officer’s department investigator.
  • Stipulates that all information obtained in the interview is considered proprietary and confidential and shall remain so until the subject of the interview is served with a notice of investigation by the employer and any admonitions ordered by the employer are redacted.
  • Allows the witness officer to discuss the interview with their employee representative or the representative’s legal counsel.
  • Stipulates that if the employee releases information without authorization, the employer may subject the employee who released the information to disciplinary action.
  • Establishes additional requirements for the representative.
  • Changes the circumstances in which the interview information is no longer confidential.
  • Specifies these requirements do not preempt other agreements.

4. SB 1057 – Just Cause – penalties

Overview

SB 1057 allows a law enforcement officer to bring an employer’s action in superior court if the officer was terminated under certain circumstances and outlines the penalties if the court finds that there was no just cause for the action.

History

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 38-1101 defines disciplinary action as the dismissal, demotion or suspension for more than sixteen hours of an officer that is authorized by statute, charter or ordinance and that is subject to a hearing or other procedure by a local merit board, a civil service board, and administrative law judge or a hearing officer.

The statute also specifies that if an officer’s employer believes that any meeting concerning the officer’s alleged misconduct could result in dismissal, suspension or a demotion then the officer must be notified in writing beforehand concerning the allegations they will face. The officer is also able to request that a representative be present at the meeting, although the representative must be of the same agency unless the agency cannot provide a representative. An attorney could be consulted during breaks during the interview by telephone. If the officer makes any statement that differs from other information that was previously recorded, the officer may be forced to submit to a polygraph examination (A.R.S. § 38-1101 (A (3)).

Provisions

  • Allows an officer to bring an action in superior court for a new hearing concerning termination if:
    • The termination occurred as a result of the chief of the law enforcement agency or the chief executive officer of a city or town reversing the choice or proposal of a civil service board or merit commission; and
    • The termination is believed to be without just cause by the officer.
  • Allows an officer to bring an action in superior court to review the agency’s file if the officer is fired by the executive officer of a city or town or the chief of the law enforcement agency and there are no civil service boards or merit commissions to evaluate the termination.
  • Specifies that if the court finds from the review of the file that just cause for the action did not exist, then the officer is entitled to a hearing.
  • Allows the court to award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party and requires the court to award that party all costs.
  • Specifies the following results if the superior court finds that just cause for the action against the employee did not exist:
    • Requires the officer to be reinstated to the their previous position within the law enforcement agency by court order; and
    • Allows the court to reward the officer monetary damages that cannot exceed the officer’s combined wages and benefits lost as a result of the wrongful termination
  • Makes technical and conforming changes.

 5. SB 1235 – Whistleblower protection expanded to municipal employees

This legislation was proposed as two separate bills and was combined by the legislature.  Only the whistleblower provision was proposed by PLEA.  Arizona Chiefs of Police (ACOPs) and the FOP were opposed to PLEA’s amendment for whistleblower protection.

At the request of a law enforcement officer facing a disciplinary action, the employing agency must provide a list and summary of disciplinary action ordered against other officers of similar rank and experience employed by the same agency who were accused of the same or similar violation within the previous two years. At the employer’s choice, instead of summaries, file copies of case files of relevant disciplinary cases may be provided. If the employer is a county of fewer than 250,000 or a city of fewer than 65,000, and a change in hearing officer is requested, a first request must be granted and the alternate hearing officer must be made available through an intergovernmental agreement with another jurisdiction. If the officer is the party that requested the change of hearing officer, the costs of procuring the alternate hearing officer shall be shared equally between the employer and the officer. Additionally, if a critical incident stress management team member acquires information in confidence from a person in the course of the member’s response to an incident, that information, with some stated exceptions, may not be disclosed in a legal proceeding, trial or investigation. Also applies existing whistleblower protection statutes to municipal law enforcement officers, thereby making it a prohibited personnel practice to take reprisal against a municipal law enforcement officer who discloses information he/she believes evidences a violation of a law, mismanagement, a gross waste of monies or an abuse of authority.

6. HB2476 – MRSA Exposure – Reporting and Treatment (presumptions)

Overview

HB 2476 increases the criteria time periods an employee has to establish a prima facie workers’ compensation claim involving exposure to methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

History

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 23-1021 provides for a workers’ compensation benefits system whereby any employee whose accidental injury or death arising out of and in the course of employment becomes a compensable claim, unless the injury was purposely self-inflicted.  Benefits include medical, nursing, hospital and prescription costs, or funeral expenses in the event of death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics.  These antibiotics include methicillin, oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin.  Most MRSA infections are skin infections that may appear as pustules or boils which are commonly red, swollen and painful.  MRSA in healthcare settings usually cause more severe and potentially life-threatening infections, such as bloodstream infections, surgical site infections or pneumonia.

A.R.S. § 23-1043.04 specifies that a claim for a condition, infection, disease or disability involving or related to MRSA is required to include the occurrence of a significant exposure.  Significant exposure is defined as exposure in the course of employment to aerosolized bacteria, bodily fluids or skin infected with MRSA.  Notwithstanding any other law, an employee who satisfies the following criteria presents a prima facie claim for a condition, infection, disease or disability involving or related to MRSA:

  1. The employee’s regular course of employment involves exposure to MRSA;
  2. Within ten calendar days after a possible significant exposure arising out of and in the course of employment, the employee reports in writing the details of the exposure; and
  3. The employee is diagnosed with MRSA within two to ten days of the possible significant exposure.

Provisions

  • Increases criteria time period from ten calendar days to thirty calendar days that an employee has to report in writing to the employer the details of the exposure.
  • Increases criteria time period that an employee is diagnosed with MRSA from two to ten days to fifteen days of the possible significant exposure.