On March 20, 2009, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey decided the case of Wade v. Colaner. In the case, plaintiff, a Tinton Falls police officer, was pulled over by New Jersey State Troopers for speeding. Plaintiff was subsequently charged with careless driving, obstruction of administration of law, and resisting arrest. On account of this incident, he was suspended from his position of employment.
Ultimately, plaintiff brought this action alleging excessive force and deliberate indifference. Defendants counterclaimed against Plaintiff for reimbursement of the wages paid to Plaintiff during his suspension and moved for summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s other claims. The Court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s excessive force claim, but dismissed Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim. Moreover, the Court granted the Tinton Falls Defendants’ motion for summary judgment finding that Plaintiff was not entitled to a pre-suspension hearing and also granted the motion for summary judgment for reimbursement of the wages paid to Plaintiff during his suspension.
This case shows that a public safety officer who is suspended from his or her employment and is continuing to receive their wages during the period of suspension potentially may have to reimburse their employer for the wages they have received. As a result, public safety officers should be conscious of this possibility in the event they are suspended from employment.
A similar type concept was the subject of previous posts to this blog regarding the 180 day bill recently signed into law. As you will recall, the bill, in essence, allows certain law enforcement officers and firefighters to regain pay status when appeals of termination are not resolved within 180 days. Under this bill, if an officer and/or firefighter has been receiving his/her base salary after expiration of the 180 day period and he/she ultimately loses their appeal, the officer and/or firefighter will be required to reimburse the employing agency of department all of the base salary received during the period of appeal. Certain rules of law such as these make it imperative for public safety officers to be informed regarding all the potential consequences in the event they are targeted for suspension and/or removal.