When a police officer resigns from the force shortly after completing training, can he or she be required to reimburse the city for the costs of attending the police academy? The answer is no – an answer the City of Los Angeles learned the hard way. (See In re Acknowledgement Cases, 239 Cal. App. 4d 1498, decided August 12, 2015.)
In the early 1990s the City experienced a high attrition rate amongst officers of the Los Angeles Police Department. In an attempt to mitigate the costs of turnover, the City enacted an administrative code provision that required officers to pay a prorated portion of the cost of their required training at the Los Angeles Police Academy if they voluntarily left the force within sixty months of graduation, and were hired by another law enforcement agency within one year of leaving. New officer recruits were required to sign an acknowledgment of this policy.
The City brought suit against a series of officers for reimbursement of academy training expenses under this provision. With many pending cases on the same issue, the City agreed that the rulings on the enforceability of the acknowledgment for one case would apply to all pending acknowledgment cases. The trial court ruled in the City’s favor, finding the acknowledgements to be enforceable against the officers. The officers appealed.
The Fourth Appellate District examined the administrative reimbursement provision under the California Labor Code, which provides that employers must indemnify employees against the necessary expenditures or losses incurred in the discharge of the employee’s duties. (Cal. Labor Code § 2802(a)). While no cases had directly resolved the issue of whether training was such a necessary expenditure, the appellate court nonetheless determined that it could be. Training required under state law (such as Peace Officer Standards and Training) was not mandated by the employer, and therefore the court found that it was not an expense of employment. The Los Angeles Police Academy, however, had training which exceeded the state requirements of POST. That portion of training was found to be an expense of employment for which the City could not seek reimbursement from recruits. Continue reading