from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish
of Bossier, Louisiana Trial Court No. 137, 252 Honorable Jeff
SCHIMPF, HAINES, ET AL. By: Kenneth Patrick Haines Counsel
BREEDLOVE LAW FIRM By: Pamela Breedlove KEAN MILLER, LLP By:
Michael Lowe Counsel for Appellee.
WILLIAMS, MOORE and STONE, JJ.
Hawkins appeals a judgment of the 26th Judicial District
Court which affirmed a decision of the Bossier City Municipal
Fire and Police Civil Service Board ("the Board")
to terminate Hawkins from the Bossier City Police Department
("BCPD") for failing to have an abandoned car towed
from the right-hand lane of Walker Road at Arthur Ray Teague
Parkway. Finding no abuse of discretion or denial of due
process, we affirm.
Background and Prior Appeal
1:00 pm on June 9, 2011, Sgt. Benjamin England was driving to
BCPD to conduct a shift meeting at 2:00 pm. Coming down
Walker Road toward Arthur Ray Teague Parkway, he saw an
elderly African American man walking east on Walker Road. The
man motioned back toward the parkway. Sgt. England then saw a
Dodge Caliber stopped in the right-hand lane of Walker Road.
Concerned that southbound traffic turning left off the
parkway onto Walker Road might hit the car, Sgt. England
called dispatch to report a stalled vehicle. The dispatcher
told him someone would be sent, so Sgt. England proceeded to
his shift meeting.
pm, Cpl. Hawkins, an 18-year veteran of BCPD, responded to
the call about a stalled or abandoned vehicle and the elderly
man walking away from it. Cpl. Hawkins got there about 1:20
pm, finding a Dodge Caliber with a flat tire parked in the
outside travel lane of Walker Road. He ran the tag number on
the Thinkstream system and found the car belonged to an
elderly man. Cpl. Hawkins drove to the nearest business, a
bank, to see if the owner had come in to seek assistance; he
had not. Cpl. Hawkins returned to the Dodge and activated his
dashcam to document the abandoned car and the "extremely
light" traffic. He did not deem it an immediate traffic
hazard for that time of day, so he did not call to have it
this time, Cpl. Wayne Benjamin, who had heard the call, came
to the scene to see if Cpl. Hawkins needed help. He promptly
told Cpl. Hawkins that he (Hawkins) needed to get the car
towed. Because he did not think this was necessary, Cpl.
Hawkins called his superior, Sgt. Jeff Gaydos, for advice.
Sgt. Gaydos later testified that based on information
provided by Sgt. Hawkins, he thought the car was completely
off the road. He asked three questions: was the car (1) a
road hazard, (2) blocking traffic, or (3) a vision
obscurement to other traffic; Cpl. Hawkins replied
"no" to each question, so Sgt. Gaydos told him to
leave it. Cpl. Hawkins did so, and left the scene about 1:30
a still image from Sgt. Hawkins's dashcam, admitted as
Ex. C-5, shows the Dodge completely on the travel surface,
the right wheels perhaps 4-6 inches from the curb. Around
2:30 pm, another officer, Keith Hardin, drove by and
immediately had the car towed.
next day, BCPD filed a complaint against Cpl. Hawkins on
grounds that he did nothing to remove the car from the
roadway when it was clearly blocking one lane of traffic. He
received an "Internal Investigation Warning" on
June 15, and notice of a predisciplinary hearing on June 20.
five members of the predisciplinary panel unanimously
sustained the complaint and recommended
termination. On July 18, the mayor and chief of police
formally notified Cpl. Hawkins that because he failed to
"take appropriate action" to remove an abandoned
car that was "reasonably deemed a traffic hazard"
under Gen. Order 05-10, he was terminated
Hawkins then filed an appeal to the Board, which held a
hearing on September 21. Six witnesses testified, including
Chief Patrick McWilliams, who felt that Cpl. Hawkins's
conduct detracted from the efficient and orderly operation of
the department, wasted manpower and exposed BCPD to liability
if another motorist had rammed into the abandoned car. The
chief also described Cpl. Hawkins's history of
dereliction of duty dating from 1994, including a 30-day
suspension in 1998 and a demotion to corporal in January
2011, just months before this incident; an officer with a
clean record would not be terminated for merely failing to
tow. He testified that Ofc. England, who also failed to tow
the Dodge, received only a "letter of
documentation" (and a 30-day suspension without pay); he
had four prior suspensions, but none for ...