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December 29, 2011

Law enforcement personnel may be prohibited from associating with persons suspected of illegal activities.

Law enforcement personnel may be prohibited from associating with persons suspected of illegal activities.
Matter of Matter of Hastings v City of Sherrill, 90 AD3 1586

The City of Sherrill’s Chief of Police, James T. Hastings, was served with disciplinary charges pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law alleging that he was involved with "person(s) notoriously suspected of illegal activities … outside [the Chief’s] official duties." The Chief was found guilty of the charges and was terminated from his position.

The person suspected of “illegal activities” with whom the Chief was “involved” was the Chief’s 29-year-old son.

The Appellate Division, sustaining the City’s determination, ruled that the departmental regulations that the Chief was found to have violated “did not impermissibly interfere with his constitutionally protected right of intimate association.” Citing Morrisette v Dilworth, 59 NY2d 449, the court said that "[I]t is well established that it is within the State's power to regulate the conduct of its police officers even when that conduct involves the exercise of a constitutionally protected right."

The court also commented that “in light of the age of Chief’s son and the absence of any evidence that his son was mentally incapacitated, this case does not involve the constitutionally protected interest in custodial relationships between parents and their children.”

Other decisions in which a police officer was served with administrative disciplinary charges alleging he or she had  associated with persons alleged to have been engaged in criminal activities include Brinson v Safir, 255 AD2d 247, leave to appeal denied 93 NY2d 805; Richardson v Safir, 258 AD2d 328 and Delgado v Kerik, 294 A.D.2d 227.

The Hastings decision is posted on the Internet at:

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