Police department faces lawsuit
The Hammond Police Department is facing a lawsuit for allegedly violating the privacy rights of a law enforcer.
Police officer Jennifer Payne Gautier was arrested April 25, 2014 and accused of allegedly “doctor shopping” to obtain prescription drugs. Shortly after, the Hammond Police Department issued a news release about the arrest, which included some of Payne’s personal information, such as her name, picture and address.
Following the release, Payne filed a complaint with the Hammond Fire and Civil Service Board, saying her privacy rights had been violated under the civil service law.
According to the Police Officer Bill of Rights revised statute 2532 found on the Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service website, “No person, agency or department shall release to the news media, press or any other public information agency, a law enforcement officer’s home address, photograph or any information that may be deemed otherwise confidential, without the express written consent of the law enforcement officer, with respect to an investigation of the law enforcement officer.”
Following her complaint, Police Chief Roddy Devall was placed on paid administrative leave due to his knowledge and approval of the news released by department spokesman Lt. Vince Giannoble. Devall immediately filed a counterclaim with help of attorney Jill Craft against the Civil Service Board, stating he was unlawfully placed on administrative leave and his police officer rights were also violated.
According to the Police Officer Bill of Rights revised statute 2531 section 8.C, “There shall be no discipline, demotion, dismissal or adverse action of any sort taken against a police employee or law enforcement officer unless the investigation is conducted in accordance with the minimum standards provided for in this Section. Any discipline, demotion, dismissal or adverse action of any sort whatsoever taken against a police employee or law enforcement officer without complete compliance with the foregoing minimum standards is an absolute nullity.”
On June 17, US District Judge Carl Barbier determined the city’s civil service board had failed to give Devall a proper hearing before placing him on leave. Following the hearing, Devall’s position as police chief was reinstated.
Devall’s attorney asked the federal judge to hold the Hammond board in contempt for violating his rights and violating a federal restraining order by continuing to conduct an investigation against him without allowing him to participate in the investigation.
On June 18, the board held a special meeting that excluded Devall in order to discuss the actions they would take against him.
According to his police rights, he should have been allowed to attend this meeting. The Police Officer Bill of Rights states, “the board shall set the matter for hearing and shall provide notice of the hearing to the police employee or law enforcement officer who is under investigation. The police employee or law enforcement officer who is under investigation shall have the right to attend the hearing and to present evidence and arguments.”
The Civil Service Board determined they had enough evidence to set a disciplinary hearing against Devall and spokesman Giannoble for 9 a.m. on July 14. They also concluded the department’s spokesman Giannoble had never received proper training on his duties and what information he could or could not release.
Devall’s attorney argues the board failed to conduct a “lawful” investigation against Devall for violating police officer Payne’s rights.
If the board is found to be in contempt of court, then Devall’s attorney is requesting the judge to void the board’s disciplinary actions, as well as grant attorney fees and costs.
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