Does POST know where you live?
I have been honored to represent several LEOs before the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council. I have advised and assisted many more without formally representing them. I am dedicating this blog article to a critical issue for all LEOs. This information applies generally in any state and with any licensing or certifying agency.
Like other licensing and certifying agencies, POST requires LEOs to update POST of any changes in address or status as a LEO. See Ga. R & R Section 464-4-.03. The rationale behind this is simple and logical. POST must be able to contact you in the event of a complaint, a problem with your certification or a notice from POST that will affect you. Unfortunately, I have found that many, if not most, LEOs are not aware of this requirement. Unfortunately, this can result in the loss of your certification and your livelihood.
Here is the most common scenario that causes much wailing and gnashing of teeth. POST receives a complaint about you from a citizen, officer or law enforcement agency. As predicted, POST will send you a letter advising you of the complaint, your rights under Georgia law and the Georgia Administrative Procedures Act and your obligation to comply with the investigation. This makes perfect sense as you have a due process right to notice and an opportunity to “be heard” aka respond to the allegations.
However, if you are like most LEOs, the last address POST has for you is the one you provided during the Basic Mandate Academy! So, the letter goes out certified mail to the wrong address and returns unclaimed. The follow up letters meet the same fate and you risk having your certification REVOKED for failing to respond to the allegations! The law considers that you have been “served” with the notices from POST if the letters are sent via certified mail to the address POST has on file. Ga. R & R Section 464-4-.07.
Now, let me say that in my experience, the folks at POST are professional, courteous and conscientious. They are charged with a tremendous task with ever shrinking resources, but that is a blog post for another day! The last thing they want is to have a LEO lose her certification because of the failure of the LEO to report an address change.
While I believe this situation can be partially remedied by having each law enforcement agency provide the current address for a LEO anytime the agency sends in a change of status form, the law places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the LEO. So, I suggest that all of you make certain that POST has your current address and contact information. You can do this by going to http://www.gapost.org/apps_forms.html and filling out a C-11 form. I’m quite certain that every state licensing or certifying agency has such a form.
One more thing. POST, like all other licensing and certifying agencies, operates under administrative law guidelines. The important thing to remember is that the deadlines in any administrative proceeding are hard deadlines! If you do not respond PRIOR to the deadline, you will lose your rights. We can all agree that a letter from POST can be a memorable event, but there is no time to sit and ponder your options. Respond promptly, send all responses via certified mail or overnight service and take any investigation seriously. You should also check your on-line records periodically to make certain your training history and status is correct.
Finally, remember that you MUST notify POST of any change in your status within 15 days. Ga. R & R 464-3-.05. In addition to address changes, POST requires you to report the following:
“(a) arrest by local, state, or federal authorities;
(b) suspensions, in totality, of thirty (30) days or longer for singular incidents of misconduct, demotions (other than for administrative purposes), termination by employing agency, or resignations in lieu of terminations;
(c) indictments of presentments in any local, state or federal courts;
(d) conviction or bond forfeiture, in any local, state or federal court. The term “conviction” shall include a finding or verdict of guilt, plea of guilty, or a plea of nolo contendere, regardless of whether the adjudication of guilt or sentence is withheld or not entered thereon;
(e) minor traffic citations written to a certified officer need not be reported to the Council.”
So, when in doubt, report it to POST via a letter. The failure to report can subject you to discipline even if the underlying offense would not have resulted in a revocation.
I personally believe that handling an administrative action without an attorney is like trying to save money with a “neurosurgery at home kit!” You might save some money, but the results may be less than optimal. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t go to a hot call without backup. Of course, this is another reason to join the Fraternal Order of Police and sign up for the legal defense plan.