Soldier fired for lack of Christmas work sues RI State Police
PROVIDENCE — A Rhode Island state trooper who authorities accuse of missing a Christmas Day watch due to severe intoxication is asking a Superior Court judge to return him to the job he occupied for more than two decades.
A state trooper identified only as John Doe, whose name and rank are undisclosed, is suing Rhode Island State Police and its former superintendent, Col. James Manni, accusing them of the wrongfully terminated without providing him with the protections and hearing process contained in the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights.
State police are asking Superior Court Presiding Judge Alice B. Gibney — who hears issues relating to the state’s law enforcement officers’ bill of rights — to dismiss Doe’s claims , but the agency is asking for the ability to hold a bill of rights hearing for Doe, if the court finds he was fired in error.
“We wish there were things that could be said, but LEOBOR muzzles us,” said Vincent F. Ragosta Jr., who represents the state police along with D. Peter DeSimone and Adam J. Sholes. Police departments are not permitted to speak publicly about a LEOBOR case unless the officer addresses it publicly first.
Carly Iafrate, Doe’s attorney, did not return a phone call.
Disciplined for dating a subordinate
According to Doe, trouble began in October when a state police major questioned him about his romantic relationship with a subordinate. State police policy requires officers to tell their supervisor if they are dating a co-worker to avoid conflict.
State Police said the Major learned that Doe was not only dating, but living with an unnamed subordinate he had occasion to supervise in his position as night manager. In response, State said it had adjusted Doe’s shifts so they did not overlap with the subordinate.
More than a month later, the captain in charge of internal affairs ordered him to submit a memorandum documenting the relationship.
Shortly after, on Dec. 8, Doe said the captain “slipped” a six-page disciplinary consent agreement on the desk without advising him of his rights under the officers’ bill of rights. law enforcement, Doe said.
The agreement mandated a two-day suspension without pay to be served by Jan. 31, 2022, and specified that “upon his return to work” after completing the suspension, he would be placed on probation for three months, Doe alleged. The agreement stated that Doe would not enjoy the protections of the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights while on probation and that failure to follow department rules during that time could result in stricter discipline, including dismissal.
Doe said he did not contact a lawyer and was not told he had this option before signing the deal — a claim state police deny. The agreement did not explain that Doe would become an employee at will during the probationary period without due process rights, Doe said.
State police counter that Doe “must have been well aware of what a probationary period was like” as a 24-year-old veteran of the force and that he knew the people who were waiving their rights and the implications of doing so. To do.
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Service weapon removed after ‘mental health crisis’
Doe was due to work on December 25, but said he experienced a ‘mental health crisis’ which left him unable to report to work. As a result, the division supervisor came to his home and removed his service weapon.
According to state police, Doe was unable to report to work in his role as a night shift executive due to severe intoxication. They said they received a call from his wife after they were unable to locate him and removed his service weapon – which was not loaded – due to his severe incapacitation.
Doe said he sought mental health treatment from various providers afterward and was released on “disability” before serving his suspension days. The Internal Affairs captain told him he would rescind the two-day suspension on December 25 and 26, although Doe said he had not consented to it and had already been called ill on those days. .
A major told him he was placed on administrative leave, although Doe said he had requested sick leave.
On January 19, Manni signed the disciplinary agreement the department reached with Doe the previous month, although Manni said he had already read and approved it.
The next day, the Internal Affairs captain arranged to meet Doe “on the side of the road” and handed him a termination letter, along with Manni’s signed disciplinary agreement. State police said Doe refused to meet anywhere other than at a state Department of Transportation site, despite offers.
Trooper seeks to reverse dismissal due to rights violations
According to Doe, the termination letter failed to inform him of his hearing rights under the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights and incorrectly stated that his probationary period had begun, so that the agreement itself stipulated that his probation would not begin until he returned to duty after serving his suspension.
Doe asks Presiding Judge Gibney to find that the state police failed to abide by the terms of the bill of rights and therefore the disciplinary agreement and his dismissal are void. He asks to be immediately reinstated in his position with full salary and benefits retroactive to January 20. He asks the court to order that he be advised of his rights to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officers Rights Act.
The Bill of Rights states that an officer must be informed of their right to a hearing if the agency recommends a sanction, such as demotion, transfer, termination, loss of pay, reassignment, or other punitive action. . The law enforcement officer may be suspended, but the law states that the officer must receive all ordinary salaries and benefits as he or she would have if not charged with an offence.
The three-person hearing panel consists of one serving or retired officer selected by the officer and one selected by the agency. The third is chosen by the committee, or, if they cannot agree, Gibney will step in to choose that member, who will serve as chair.
Manni retired as a colonel from the Rhode Island State Police last month and was replaced by longtime Private Darnell S. Weaver.