Thursday, March 23, 2006

City Serious About Police Training Costs

Car_policeIf you are thinking about becoming a police officer for the City of Los Angeles, you might want to think good and hard before you make that commitment.  It could turn out to be a really costly decision if the job turns out not to be to your liking.

According to a report by KNX1070 Newsradio:

The City of Los Angeles is charging that 53 former police officers violated their employment contracts when they skipped out within five years after joining the force. The city is seeking to recoup the$1.6 million that it cost to train the officers.

Thirty of those charged are challenging the allegation and have hired an attorney to file a class action countersuit on their behalf  [under the  Fair Labor Standards Act].

Since 1996, the city has required recruits to sign five year contracts. An earlier investigation determined that some were leaving soon after graduation to accept positions with other police departments. The contract stipulates that officers will repay part or all of the $60,000 it cost to train them if they leave the job early.

From an employment law perspective, the recruits appear to have an uphill legal battle.  I don't see any reason why the contract as written would not be enforced by the courts, as long as there are no contraction formation issues.

I also have to admit that I do not understand the FLSA countersuit which according to the recruit's attorney alleges that, "[i]t is unlawful under the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act for any employer to ask for money back from an employee.''  Huh? 

On the other hand, I could foresee a potential issue under the state wage payment and collection law if  such repayments were seen as unauthorized deductions, but the recruits in question are no longer employees of the LAPD so I don't see how that would be an issue either.

At the end of the day, the contract will most likely be enforceable as written and another harsh lesson on the importance of reading employment contract terms before signing an agreement will hopefully be learned.


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A student of mine wrote a paper about this a few years back. Apparently, it’s a big problem in municipal government. Training officers well is expensive, and takes a long time. Some municipalities do it in-house; others don’t. The ones that do it in-house risk having graduates from their programs poached by other municipalities. The municipalities that do the training incur all the costs and receive none of the benefit. This has led many municipalities to stop training police officers, which creates even more pressure on the few municipalities that still train in-house. No doubt LAPD is responding to many of its graduates being poached by affluent suburbs, which are more than willing to pay a premium for trained officers.

Rick Bales

Posted by: Rick | Mar 23, 2006 12:33:18 PM

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