Charley Cole participates in Police Officer Bill of Rights appeal

Charley Cole recently participated in one of the first statutory appeals under the newly revised statute known as the Kentucky Police Officer Bill of Rights, KRS 15.520.  This statute provides due process rights for police officers in matters involving a charge based upon a citizen complaint or based upon a violation of law enforcement policy. The updated language of the statute, which went into effect on June 24, 2016, allows a police officer that has been disciplined based upon a charge to present “new evidence” in circuit court concerning alleged arbitrariness on the part of the disciplinary hearing authority.

Sturgill Turner represented the City of Paris during a February disciplinary hearing of five police officers who had been suspended for spending too much time in the dispatch area, when they should have been performing law enforcement duties such as patrol for criminal activity and the enforcement of traffic laws. This appeal stemmed from that hearing, with the officers alleging that their right to due process had been violated because, among other things, they weren’t permitted to cross-examine the police chief during their disciplinary hearing.

Charley Cole argued that the suspensions should be affirmed because the circuit court review of the case must be limited to the administrative record of the city commission hearing and any new evidence offered by the officers on whether the city acted arbitrarily. The officers admitted to spending too much time in the dispatch area, which was also supported by video evidence. Further, the officers had been told by the current chief, as well as the prior chief, that they weren’t supposed to spend such a significant amount of time in dispatch.

“These officers may feel they were suspended too long. That’s not for this court to review,” Cole said. “The test for arbitrariness in all reviews is the absence of substantial evidence to support the charges. Here we have admissions of guilt.” Thus, the decision of the Paris City Commission to suspend the officers is supported by the evidence, i.e., their admission of guilt.

The officers’ statutory appeal is pending for a decision by the Bourbon Circuit Court.

Read the Herald Leader’s coverage of the hearing: