On December 8th, 2013

Peace Officers of California’s Legal Defense is Really Not Much of a Defense

If you have no legal defense in place, you need to have career insurance. This is even more true where you are a peace officer who is often called upon to use great bodily or other lethal force.  If you are a member of Peace Officers of California (POC), you may be surprised at how little defense you actually have. 

How many of you have actually seen the Legal Services Agreement between POC and the Rose Law Firm?  For years, CSLEA has surmised as to the deficiencies that would have to exist in a plan provided by a single law firm without large financial reserves to guard against the risk of a major case. CSLEA has secured a copy of the agreement and it is even more limited than suspected. In fact, once you review it, you will see how little coverage there really is. 

The following will explain the plan's shortcomings and why CSLEA's legal defense and legal representation systems provide vastly greater benefits:

  • The POC plan does not cover evidentiary hearings before the State Personnel Board for medical terminations, demotions or suspensions, or appeals from rejection on probation.  POC members are  merely entitled to an informal meeting with a manager to contest these actions. In contrast, CSLEA will represent its members in the administrative hearings as well as in resulting appeals to the superior and appellate courts (based on merit).  CSLEA members pay no attorney's fees or costs in such proceedings. Currently, CSLEA is representing a Special Agent Supervisor in Los Angeles Superior Court who is seeking reinstatement from retirement. This would not be covered under the POC plan.
  • The POC plan provides 24/7 critical incident coverage for officer-involved shootings via a single small law firm in the Sacramento area. The POC plan allows for representation through phone consultation. The CSLEA Legal Defense Plan utilizes a panel of attorneys throughout the state, most of whom are on the PORAC LDF panel. CSLEA LDF panel attorneys will respond to the scene and investigating agency, regardless of day or night.     And though it is true the peace officer's decision to give a statement in a criminal investigation is voluntary and may be postponed, officers who delay in providing a statement may be subject to increased scrutiny and may be compelled to provide an administrative statement. Under POC's plan, this administrative statement could very well be done without the presence of the officer's chosen representative.    Since the plan's inception in 1991, CSLEA has dispatched dozens of panel attorneys to critical incidents even in the wee hours of the morning to remote locations such as Hemet, California                                                                                                                                                                               
  • The POC plan limits coverage of disciplinary appeals to the administrative hearing before the SPB. If an employee wants to appeal the SPB decision to superior court, the employee must pay for his/her own attorney and the costs on appeal out of his/her own pocket. This is very likely the reason POC founder/officer Brandon Shoemaker opted not to pursue the appeal of the SPB decision upholding his termination.  In contrast, if there is merit to the case, CSLEA members may receive representation through the superior and appellate courts. CSLEA Legal recently represented a Museum Security Officer through the appellate courts on a review of an SPB disciplinary appeal.
  • If there is a legal conflict amongst more than one (1) POC member, the Rose Law Firm is obligated to represent only one (1) member. The others are entitled to representation only to the extent that POC has sufficient assets to pay for other attorneys to represent them. In contrast, CSLEA has and will appoint and pay for conflict attorneys to represent all involved members.
  • The Rose Law Firm is entitled to terminate its obligation to provide representation on sixty (60) day's notice. If the law firm were to be faced with major litigation expenses or determined the overall economic value of the agreement with POC was not to its advantage, it could sever the agreement and withdraw from representation of any POC member's case. The POC member would be obligated to find his/her own attorney at their own expense. In contrast, CSLEA's Legal Defense Fund has 1.5 million dollars in assets and a full staff of in-house attorneys to represent its members.
  • The POC plan has no provision for affirmative relief or cases of major importance. The CSLEA LDF allows a Board of Trustees to authorize affirmative relief and allows for cases of major importance. For example, a CSLEA LDF panel attorney successfully sued the Department of Justice for violation of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (POBR) concerning lack of adequate notice. The same law firm has recently received authorization to again sue DOJ for denying a special agent the right to be represented by his chosen representative.    

It is likely the vast majority of POC members have never seen the attached agreement which outlines the benefits to which they may be entitled. For those who have not, take the time to review the plan and decide whether you are receiving the level of coverage that you believe you are paying for. What are you really getting for $17/month? Not a whole lot. 

If you have any questions please email or telephone CLSEA Chief Counsel/General Manager Kasey Clark; kclark@cslea.com; 916-447-5262.  


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