The Myth of “Administrative Leave”

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Every time I see an article posted about bad police behavior, someone chimes in about the officer being given “paid vacation” for his or her transgression.

It is not “paid vacation.”

Below a comment from redditor /u/thatsnotminesir, a police officer who gave a comprehensive explanation of what “administrative leave” really means, at least in his department – and it sounds like this is how it should work.

The myth I see the most of reddit is that when officers get in trouble, they just get “paid vacation.”

When an accusation of misconduct comes up, especially criminal misconduct, the officer is placed on Administrative Leave with pay. This is NOT the punishment. This is to get them off the streets while the investigation is being conducted, while at the same time, not punishing them (financially at least) until the accusations are investigated and proven.

When an accusation of Police Misconduct is investigated, there are TWO separate investigations. One is an Administrative Investigation, the other is a Criminal Investigation. They have to be separate because of Garrity.

Garrity is like the evil twin of Miranda for government employees, mostly police. After the Garrity admonitions are read to us, we MUST answer all questions, and MUST answer them truthfully. If we refuse to answer, or lie, we can be fired just for lying or refusing to answer.

That completely violates our 5th Amendment Right against self incrimination. Because of that, nothing said after Garrity can be used against us in criminal court. It can only be used in administrative actions against our employment.

Therefore, two separate investigations are conducted. An Administrative Investigation where they read us Garrity, and a Criminal Investigation where they read us Miranda. Nothing found in the administrative investigation can be used against us in the criminal, but things found in the criminal CAN be used against us in the administrative. So the criminal is usually done first, then the administrative afterwards.

Because the administrative is usually done after the criminal, that’s why it often takes time for the firing to happen, because the firing won’t happen until after the Administrative. While that seem strange to the laymen, if the Administrative was done first, and officer could say “Yeah I stole the money” under Garrity and it couldn’t be used against him in court. But if the criminal is done first, and he says “Yeah I stole the money” after Miranda, it can be used to prosecute him AND to fire him.

Once the two investigations are complete, THEN the punishment is handed down if the charges are sustained. Media articles don’t always follow up on the case, so all people read in papers is “officer got in trouble, is on paid leave.” Administrative Leave is just the beginning, not the end of the story.

Even then, the Administrative Leave isn’t fun. The take your badge and gun and you are basically on house arrest between the hours of 8am and 5pm on weekdays. You cannot leave your home without permission of your superiors, even it its just to go down the street to the bank or grocery store. You must be available to come into the office immediately at any time for questioning, polygraphs, or anything else involved in the investigation. Drink a beer? That’s consuming alcohol on duty, you’re fired. So even when officers are cleared of the charges and put back on the street, Admin. Leave still isn’t “paid vacation.”

EDIT: I did not realize the wiki explained garrity, but gave such a poor example of the admonitions, leading to some confusion. Here is a much better example.[3]

EDIT:#2 I changed the Garrity wiki link because the wiki had a very poor example of the warnings, which led to a lot of confusion. Plus the change has a lot of links to more information on garrity for those wanting to learn more about it.[4]

Here’s the original wiki[5] for those who wonder what I changed.

This was an eye-opener for me. Anyone who has watched cop shows knows about Miranda rights, but I had never heard of Garrity. The post was a good education – forever after, I will never wince the same way I used to when a news article mentions administrative leave.

There are a lot of stories in the media this year about police misconduct. That may be a good thing, but a lot of it seems like clickbait, low-hanging fruit for getting eyeballs on ads. It would be critical for our nation for every police department in the country to weed out its rotten apples and bad actors, but even if this were to happen, the number actually purged would be very small in comparison to the majority of men and women who entered law enforcement for better motives.

Let’s not forget what Jon Stewart recently said:

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“You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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