A New Orleans cop who was canned in 2011 for busting two women as hookers when they apparently weren’t, just got his job back thanks to an appellate court.
The case of Thomas McMasters is the latest in a series of administrative screw-ups by the Big Easy, which seems to be taking it a bit too easy when it comes to following its own rules on how to conduct internal investigations of its police department.
Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ordered McMasters reinstated with full back pay because the city took seven months, rather than the legal maximum of two, to carry out its investigation into the false arrests, the Times-Picayune newspaper reported.
The same problem afflicted a series of officers who were fired by the New Orleans police department. Prior to McMasters reinstatement, the department suffered reversals of six previous firings, all because the city took too long to investigate.
Reinstating the officers and paying them their back salaries could cost New Orleans upwards of $300,000 — and counting.
Why is the city so laid back about getting investigations done in the required period of time? The police department policy has been to make sure all criminal cases related to an officer’s firing are cleared before the department moves on taking disciplinary action.
But in January, the court ruled that the city’s interpretation of the law is wrong. There’s nothing stopping the city from carrying out disciplinary investigations while criminal cases, which can sometimes drag on for months, are still in progress.
In McMasters’ case, it was Nov. 8, 2009 when he and a partner — who also ended up getting fired — arrested two women on New Orleans’ famous Bourbon Street. They were charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution.
But the law requires that before arresting a person for prostitution-related loitering charges, officers must check to see if the suspects have any prior record of prostitution convictions, at least in the past year.
McMasters and his partner didn’t do that. Neither arrested woman had any such record and they filed complaints against the arresting officers.
But the department waited until the following July before finishing its investigation and didn’t fire him until February of 2011.
Sources: New Orleans Times-Picayune (2)