Attorney Generalís Opinions Concerning the Police Officer of Firefighter's Bill of Rights

We frequently receive questions regarding the Bill of Rights for Fire Fighters and Police Officers concerning when an employee must be notified that he or she is under investigation and when does the investigation begin. We finally have guidance from the Attorney General, who has issued opinions on December 31, 2002, May 1, 2003, and January 29, 2009, concerning the Bill of Rights for Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters.


Opinion No. 02-0467
, which was issued to Chief Jerry Agnew in Bogalusa, quoted LSA-R.S. 40:2531(B)(1), then made the following statement:

The statutory language noted above makes it clear that whether an investigation has resulted in a "validated" complaint is not controlling on the issue of when an officer must be advised he/she is under investigation. A police officer under investigation must be so advised at that point where the officer is interrogated regarding the subject matter of the investigation. Because the statute is protective of rights, the term "interrogated" must be broadly construed to include questioning of any nature about the "complaint" without regard to how formal or informal the questioning may be.

 

Opinion No. 03-0095, which was issued to Honorable Ruth Fontenot of the City of New Iberia, defines when an investigation begins. The opinion made the following statement:

In accord with Opinion 93-52, our interpretation of R. S. 40:3531 reflects that an investigation begins when an authorized person begins to make inquiry or collect evidence concerning a situation with an officer where the end result is "with a view to possible disciplinary action, demotion, or dismissal."

 

Opinion No. 04-180, which was issued to Senator Donald R. Cravins, made the following statement:

Any firefighter under disciplinary investigation has a right to protection of an attorney at the interrogation stage.

 

Opinion No. 08-0291, which was issued to Mr. Ron Melton, Chairman of the Winnfield Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, made the following statement:

An investigation of a fire employee or a municipal law enforcement officer, where the end result is disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal, must be concluded sixty days from the day an authorized person begins to make inquiry or collect evidence regarding that fire employee or municipal law enforcement officer. Where an investigation of a municipal law enforcement officer is prompted by a formal written complaint, the chief of police must initiate the investigation within fourteen days of the department's receipt of the written complaint.

 

Opinion No. 08-0052, which was issued to Mr. Jason Boudreaux, Chairman of the Lafayette Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, made the following statement:

Any discipline, demotion or dismissal taken against a law enforcement officer or a fire employee in violation of the sixty-day time frame imposed on investigations is an absolute nullity.


Inasmuch as the language of the fire legislation is very similar concerning this point, we have been verbally advised by the Attorney Generalís office that we might assume the same reasoning would apply to Fire Fighters under investigation.

"Bill of Rights" for Fire Employees
"Bill of Rights" for Law Enforcement Officers


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Date this page was last updated:  Thursday, January 16, 2003 02:20 PM