§ A296-48General provisions.
§ A296-50Cause for removal, suspension and reduction in rank.
§ A296-52Hearing on removal, suspension or reduction in rank.
§ A296-53Notice of hearing.
§ A296-54Hearing procedure.
§ A296-56Decision of Commission.
§ A296-57Appeal to Court.
§ A296-58Filing of determinations of Commission.
The Council shall have power to determine in each instance whether a decrease in salary shall constitute a reduction in rank. All suspensions, removals and reductions in rank shall be made only in accordance with these rules and regulations.
Persons employed in the Police Department of the Borough through the civil service process contained in these rules and regulations shall not be suspended, removed or reduced in rank for any non-merit factor. No order of suspensions shall be for a longer period than one year.
No persons employed in the Police Department of the Borough through the civil service process contained in these rules and regulations shall be removed from employment, suspended, or reduced in rank except for the following reasons:
Physical or mental disability affecting the officer's ability to continue in service, evidenced by the certification to that effect by a medical doctor and/or psychologist designated by the Commission, in which cases the persons shall receive an honorable discharge from service;
Neglect or violation of any official duty;
Violation of any law of the commonwealth which provides that such violations constitute a misdemeanor or felony;
Inefficiency, neglect, intemperance, disobedience of orders, or conduct unbecoming an officer;
Intoxication while on duty; or
Engaging or participating in or conducting any political or election campaign for any reason other than to exercise his or her own right of suffrage.
No officer shall be suspended, removed or reduced in rank until they have first been provided with a hearing of the type required in Cleveland Bd. of Pub. Ed. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 105 S.Ct. 1487 (1985). A hearing must occur before the imposition of discipline except when it is imperative that Borough Administrators take immediate action, usually in the form of suspension without pay, to protect the best interests of the Borough, its citizens, taxpayers, and/or the Department. Officers may, if they so request, be accompanied by a fellow officer/union representative during the Loudermill proceeding.
Whenever any police officer is suspended, removed from service or reduced in rank by Council, the Mayor or the Chief of Police, the specific charges warranting each action shall be stated in writing. Any charges shall include a specific statement of the charge made and shall specify the time, place and occurrence on which the charge is based. The charges shall be stated clearly and in sufficient detail to enable the accused to understand the charges made against him or her and to be able to answer them, and shall include the section of the law or regulation as well as the factual basis for the violation of that law or regulation.
Within five days of the receipt of any charges, the Commission shall deliver to the accused, either by personal service or by certified or registered mail, a copy of the charges filed against him or her.
The officer who has been suspended, removed or reduced in rank may appeal the decision of the Borough Council by written notice to the Secretary of the Commission requesting a hearing. Such written demand for hearing must be made and delivered not more than 10 days following the officer's receipt of the notice of discipline. The officer may make written answers to any charges filed not later than the date fixed for the hearing. Failure of the officer to provide written answers to any changes shall not be deemed an admission by the officer.
The Commission shall schedule a hearing within 10 days of the filing of written charges, unless continued by the Commission for cause at the request of the Commission, the Borough or the officer. At any such hearing, the officer against whom the charges have been made may be present and represented by counsel, may call witnesses and present testimony and documentation in defense. The Borough may also be represented by counsel, call witnesses and present evidence and documentary evidence as is necessary to support the charges. A stenographic record of all testimony shall be taken at every hearing and preserved by the Commission. In the event the charges are dismissed, the record shall be sealed and not made available for public inspection.
In conducting the hearing, the Commission's standard of review shall be to determine whether sufficient evidence has been presented to support the statutory reasons given for the disciplinary action. If the Commission finds that sufficient evidence has been introduced to support the charge, the Commission shall not modify the penalty imposed by the Borough unless it finds that the penalty was arbitrary, discriminatory or an abuse of the Borough's discretion. In considering the appropriateness of the discipline, the Commission may request post hearing briefs, and shall issue a written decision containing specific findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Commission is the finder of facts, including, but not limited to, findings regarding credibility.
Notice of the date, time and place for each hearing shall be given in the following manner:
Either by personal service or by certified or registered mail to each of the principals involved in the case, and
By mailing a notice to all other parties who have stated an interest in the hearing; provided, however, that any failure to give the notice required by this subsection shall not invalidate any subsequent action taken by the Commission.
Each hearing shall be conducted in the following manner:
The Chairperson shall call the hearing to order, state the general purpose of the hearing, and make note of the parties present;
The Secretary, upon direction of the Chairperson, shall read the charges against the accused together with the record of action taken against such officer;
The Secretary shall read any written reply of the accused;
The Chairperson shall afford each person making charges, or his or her counsel, an opportunity to make further statement in support of the charges and to produce any witness;
The Chairperson shall afford the accused, or his or her counsel, an opportunity to question or cross-examine the person making charges, and to question or cross-examine any witness produced by such person;
The Chairperson shall afford each person making charges or his or her counsel an opportunity to cross-examine or question any witness produced by the accused, and an additional opportunity to produce any witness and to make a summation;
The Chairperson shall afford the accused, or his or her counsel, an opportunity to produce any witness and to sum up the defense;
The Commission shall be the judge of admissible evidence and procedure, and shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence; and
A stenographic record of all testimony taken at such hearings shall be filed with and preserved by the Commission, which record shall be sealed and not be available for public inspection in the event the charges are dismissed;
The Commission shall have the power to issue subpoenas.
The Commission, at any time during the course of the hearing, may question the person making charges, the accused, or any witness for the purpose of obtaining clarification of the testimony. The Commission may appoint and utilize as a hearing officer an attorney experienced in local agency law/civil service proceedings to advise it, make evidentiary rulings, respond to objections, etc.
All testimony shall be given under oath. The Chairperson, or in her or her absence the Vice Chairperson, shall administer all oaths.
Within 30 calendar days after receipt of the completed transcript(s) of the hearing, the Commission shall issue its decision in the form of a written order approved by at least two members of the Commission. That written adjudication, to become official, must be adopted by majority vote of the Commission in a public meeting, appropriately advertised pursuant to the Sunshine Law. The written order shall be in the form: findings of fact, conclusions or law, discussion, order. The only aspect of the adjudication which shall be publicly read, and provided to the public, unless the affected/accused employee has requested an open hearing, shall be the "order" section. If resolving the charges involves the making of credibility determinations, the adjudication shall specify the resolution of those credibility determinations. Necessary findings of fact should be supported by substantial evidence of record. Absent evidence of arbitrary or discriminatory conduct, or an abuse of discretion, the Commission has no authority to modify the penalties imposed by Borough officials where the charges brought against the affected/accused officer are found by the Commission to be supported by the evidence and where the penalties are not otherwise prohibited. The findings and decision of the Commission shall be delivered personally or by certified or registered mail to the parties.
In the event the Commission sustains the charges and orders the suspension, removal or reduction in rank, the person so suspended, removed or reduced in rank shall have immediate right to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, such appeal to be taken by petition to said court within 30 days from the date of entry by the Commission of its final order. The Commission shall note on the letter covering the adjudication to the affected/accused employee that the individual has a right to appeal, any such appeal must be perfected within 30 days from the date of entry by the Commission of its final order. In the event the event that the Commission shall sustain or order a suspension of an employee, that order of suspension shall not be for a period longer than one year.
All Commission findings, decisions and punishments shall be entered in the officer's personnel file. In the event that the Commission fails to uphold the charges, then the officer sought to be suspended, removed or demoted shall be reinstated with full back pay for the period of the suspension, removal or demotion, and no charges related to the suspension, removal or reduction in rank shall be officially recorded in the officer's personnel file.
If for reasons of economy or other reasons, it shall be deemed necessary by the Borough to reduce the number of full-time police officers in the Department, then the Borough shall apply the following procedure:
Determine if any employee vested in the appropriate pension plan is interested in voluntarily retiring (if eligible) from Borough employment;
If the number of full-time police officers who voluntarily retire is insufficient to effect the necessary reductions in numbers, then the reductions shall be effected by furloughing the person or persons, including probationers, last appointed to the respective force.
Such removal shall be accomplished by furloughing in numerical order commencing with the person last appointed until such reduction shall have been accomplished. In the event that the appointing authority decides to increase the Police Department, the furloughed officers shall be reinstated in order of their seniority in the Department if the furloughed officer accepts reinstatement, in writing, within 30 days of receiving notice of the opening. These reductions in force provisions are not applicable to the Chief of Police.