The readership of this magazine needs no sales pitch on the general benefits of LDF coverage.
However, for those unfamiliar with the benefits of the non-scope rider option available to members in Plan I, the facts of the following case may be instructive.
South Gate Officer Marcelo Bedetti was off duty one evening with a friend, attempting to park his vehicle in a lot in a nearby beach city. As he entered the parking lot in his Jeep, he noticed that, even without the illumination of his high beams, officers in a unit parked in a position facing the entry sought to shield their eyes from his headlights. Bedetti immediately turned off his lights, and sought to park. A full seven seconds later, both of the officers in the unit activated their respective spotlights toward Bedetti’s eyes as he was still driving in an attempt to park. The officers then did their best to block his access to an available space, resulting in some predictable banter between the parties. The situation degenerated from there, with the officers seemingly frustrated in an attempt to find a legal excuse to arrest the completely sober Bedetti. The officers ultimately concluded that Bedetti, who was sporting a conspicuous pink cast on his leg, was sufficiently threatening to require him to be arrested and taken to the ground, after which he was eventually charged with a violation of PC 148.
As the criminal case ran its pre-trial course, the SGPD concluded its internal affairs investigation. Relying, as most any agency would have, on the multiplicity of statements of the arresting officers, it found Bedetti culpable for misconduct, and assessed him a 30-day suspension.
Without the extra non-scope coverage, this is where so many cases would end, with the officer reluctantly realizing that the cost of pursuing an appeal could be far greater than the loss of pay and benefits.
But things changed once the case went to a criminal trial, when a video was produced to contradict some of the arresting officers’ statements, while others were notably consistent in their inconsistency. Bedetti, who testified on his own behalf, was quickly acquitted.
At this point, the benefits of the non-scope program became paramount. Although the criminal matter itself was not within the scope of coverage, anything that flowed from that triumph that could have assisted in a positive administrative outcome was authorized by LDF. Accordingly, we were afforded access to evidence and experts, just as in an on-duty case of great consequence.
In many agencies, there is a marked, stubborn resistance to revisit matters already decided. In this case, however, once the Department learned that the criminal case had fallen apart, and that one of its own may have been egregiously treated by a fellow agency, it became willing to revisit its prior position in advance of a Civil Service hearing. With the advantage of being able to reproduce the entirety of the record of the trial and additional facts, we were in a position to explain the evidence to the Department in a meaningful way to show that, however reasonable it may have seemed to rely on the arresting officers’ versions at the time of its initial review, the facts as gleaned through exhaustive cross-examination revealed that those versions could not be trusted.
After a careful review of all the relevant evidence, much of which had been previously unavailable during the internal process, the Department determined that there was insufficient cause to support the prior action, and appropriately revoked the suspension.
If there is one salient moral to the story, it is that your LDF coverage may be your best buy anywhere; on duty or off duty, don’t leave home without it!