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Former sheriff’s deputies lose suit challenging promotion process

September 24, 2014

Because the phrase “shall endeavor” should be read to mean one shall try, the Indiana Court of Appeals rejected two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers' arguments that they should have been promoted to captain. The two claimed because they were former sheriff’s deputies, the consolidation of the sheriff’s and city police departments in 2006 required their promotions to maintain proportional representation.

When the IMPD was formed in 2006, city code was revised to explain that the chief of police “shall endeavor” to maintain proportional representation of former Indianapolis Police Department officers and Marion County Sheriff’s Department deputies when making appointments and promotions.

Albert L. Hauck and Mark Wood, former sheriff’s deputies who now are IMPD officers, sought promotions to captain in 2008. Promotions are based on certain criteria, including exams, fitness and past disciplinary history. Of the 21 people found to be eligible to be promoted to captain, Wood placed 10th and Hauck placed 13th on the list. They were the highest scoring former MCSD members on the list.

The chiefs of police over the course of two years promoted the top five candidates. This led to Hauck and Wood filing a lawsuit against the city, claiming based on the revised code after the two departments merged, they should have been promoted to maintain proportionality in the ranks. Former sheriff’s deputies comprised approximately 25 percent of the IMPD force.

The trial court decided the phrase “shall endeavor” gives the chief of police discretion and requires an attempt to make representational promotions.

The Court of Appeals agreed in Albert L. Hauck and Mark Wood v. City of Indianapolis, 49A04-1403-PL-136.

Judge Elaine Brown wrote that to have overlooked the higher-scoring candidates would have shown a favoritism not contemplated by the statute. Also, Hauck and Wood cannot show damages or prevail given the total number of former sheriff’s deputies holding the rank of captain following the challenged promotions. Prior to the promotions based on the 2008 list, 13.3 percent of IMPD members holding the rank of captain were former sheriff’s deputies; following the promotions, approximately 12.1 percent were former sheriff’s deputies. The 1.2 percent difference cannot prove that the city failed to maintain the proportional representation throughout the appointed ranks of IMPD.
 

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