HD25 - "Police Officers' Bill of Rights"
The final report of the staff on the study of the "Police Officers' Bill of Rights" was received by the Crime Commission's Subcommittee No. IV at its meeting of September 22, 1992. The subcommittee approved the report, with a single recommendation, for submission to the full Commission. The Commission considered and approved the report and recommendations at its November 13, 1992, meeting.
The study, authorized by House Joint Resolution 166 (1992), sponsored by Delegate Glenn R. Croshaw, sought, as its prime objective, to determine the feasibility of extending the "Police Officers' Bill of Rights" to Virginia's deputy sheriffs. Because the necessity for considerations of the second and third issues was dependent upon the determination of the prime issue, the subcommittee limited the scope of the study to only the prime study issue.
Significant legal research was done on the status of the sheriff/deputy relationship, specifically with respect to the sheriff's ability to hire and fire his deputies at will. Additionally, all Virginia sheriffs and 25 selected police chiefs were surveyed by mail on the subject of the applicability and success of any grievance procedure employed in those offices. The legal research determined that the sheriff/deputy relationship in Virginia is steeped in history and is unique insofar as the two are deemed "as one" on the basis of a presumed requirement of trust and confidence. The surveys showed that, despite no legal requirement for their use, almost half of the responding sheriffs' offices, do use some style of grievance procedure.
Compelling arguments were raised by all those with competing interests in the outcome of the study. While it was argued that deputies are appropriately political appointees of their elected superiors in whom significant trust and confidence must be placed and who, by virtue of that, must serve at a sheriff's pleasure, it was also argued that deputies, particularly in large offices, perform an identical function to police officers who do have the right to disciplinary hearing and, in most cases, binding panel procedures.
On the basis of all the information and arguments before it, the subcommittee determined that the idea of extending the "Police Officers 'Bill of Rights" to sheriff's deputies and significant merit but that to do so would also significantly impair a sheriff's ability to run his office smoothly by diminishing the bond of trust and confidence necessary between an elected official and his political appointee. The subcommittee, therefore, recommended that the status quo be preserved. Upon consideration of the findings and recommendations of the subcommittee, the Crime Commission concurred with the subcommittee conclusions.