By: Russell M. Perry
In 2016, the Critical Incident Review Panel (“CIRP”) decided to issue a field restriction to Detective Magana (aka “bench” him) based on the number of shootings he had been involved in over the course of his 33-year career with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Det. Magana had been involved in six prior shootings, with the last one taking place approximately seven years earlier. None of Det. Magana’s shootings were out of policy. Each of the shootings were thoroughly investigated and determined to be justified. In fact, Det. Magana was even awarded the Medal of Bravery for his actions during the last shooting. The Department took the position that the decision to restrict Det. Magana from working in the field was part of a risk management measure designed to limit its exposure to civil liability and adverse public scrutiny. Ultimately, Det. Magana was denied a meaningful opportunity to present a defense or attend the CIRP meeting, and was removed from the field.
In response to the unjustly imposed field restriction, Det. Magana immediately contacted ALADS and a grievance was filed on his behalf. At the first two steps of the grievance process, ALADS representatives met with command staff and presented well-reasoned arguments in opposition to the field restrictions. When those efforts fell on deaf ears, ALADS referred the matter to Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver to aggressively pursue the case in binding arbitration, facilitated through the Los Angeles Employee Relations Commission.
After three days of hearings, the arbitrator issued a binding opinion ordering the Department to remove the restrictions and allow Det. Magana to return to his regular field duties. Additionally, the arbitrator found that the process used by the Department to restrict Det. Magana’s field duties did not comply with due process.
Finally, the arbitrator found that the decision to restrict Det. Mangana’s duties were not supported by the evidence and the decision was arbitrary, capricious, and without a rational basis.After receiving the arbitrator’s opinion, the Department returned Det. Magana to the field in the first week of September. This is the first decision to be issue in connection to the practice of benching deputies and it will certainly have an impact on future cases involving similar facts.
Russell Perry is a Partner in the Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver Legal Defense of Peace Officers Group and assists the Litigation Group. He represents public safety officers in civil, criminal, and administrative / disciplinary matters. He also responds to critical incidents such as officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.