Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Firing of Campus Police Officer Was Justified—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Fourth District Court of Appeal yesterday ordered that the California State University Board of Trustees’ firing of a campus police officer be reinstated, declaring that the trial court erred in finding the action to be an abuse of discretion.
Justice William Dato wrote the opinion for Div. One. It was not certified for publication.
It reverses a decision of San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer, who granted, in part, a petition for writ of mandate filed by the fired officer, Michael Johnson. Meyer found that termination of employment was too drastic a response to Johnson’s misdeeds.
Dato detailed the four incidents that led to the dismissal, and said:
“Allowing the dispatcher to drive the patrol vehicle on public streets for an hour without the proper training put the public at risk of harm and would have exposed the Department to liability had an accident occurred. Leaving a prisoner unattended in a jail cell with no one assigned to monitor him for nearly two hours created a risk of harm to the prisoner if he were to have a medical emergency and created a risk of damage to Department facilities had the prisoner attempted to vandalize the jail cell while unattended. Performing a strip search in view of a camera that was streaming video to dispatchers and without following the procedures for memorializing in writing the need for such an intrusive search meaningfully increased the possibility that the Department would incur liability if it were subsequently determined that the circumstances of the search violated the subject’s right to privacy. Finally, taking action to release a belligerent arrestee from custody while at the hospital with the intention of rearresting him upon discharge was not only contrary to Penal Code section 849, subdivision (b), but was also ill-advised and showed poor judgment. An officer of Johnson’s experience should have recognized the reasonable possibility that the belligerent subject would flee the hospital, requiring other officers to chase after him and creating a risk of harm to those officers, the public, and the suspect during the chase.”
The jurist found Johnson’s argument that he neither intended nor caused harm to be unavailing, saying that it “misses the point”—the point being:
“In light of the fact that Johnson engaged in four instances of questionable conduct in a time period of less than three months involving disparate situations and different Department policies, the Department could reasonably question Johnson’s judgment and ability to identify and avoid future situations involving violation of other Department policies of which Johnson may not be aware or other conduct that may pose a risk of harm to the public or liability to the Department.”
Dato said that because the board acted within its discretion in firing Johnson, “[n]either the trial court nor this court is entitled to second-guess that decision.”
The case is Johnson v. Board of Trustees of the California State University, D070629.
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