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BOROUGH BRISTOL v. HUBERT DOWNS (12/17/79)

decided: December 17, 1979.

BOROUGH OF BRISTOL, APPELLANT
v.
HUBERT DOWNS, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in case of In Re: Appeal of Hubert Downs from his Suspension and Demotion as Sergeant of the Bristol Borough Police Department, No. 78-4768-04.

COUNSEL

Richard M. Snyder, with him Begley, Carlin, Mandio & Popkin, for appellant.

William F. Coyle, with him Abrahams & Loewenstein, for appellee.

Judges Rogers, Blatt and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 47]

The Borough of Bristol (Borough) appeals to us from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County which affirmed the Bristol Borough Civil Service Commission's (Commission) decision that the Borough had abused its discretion in permanently demoting police Sergeant Hubert Downs to patrolman.

The facts are undisputed. On January 17, 1978, Sergeant Downs worked a 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. shift and he was the highest ranking officer then on duty. At approximately 8:00 p.m., he and his partner were eating

[ 48 Pa. Commw. Page 48]

    dinner at a local diner in the Borough when they were approached by two young boys who asked to be driven home. Because it was raining and sleeting at the time and the temperature was near freezing, Downs agreed to give them a ride after he finished his meal. At approximately 8:30 p.m., the officers transported the boys in their patrol car to a point approximately four blocks outside the Borough limits, and, when Downs pulled over to discharge the passengers, another car skidded into the back of the patrol car. Immediately after the collision, in which no one was hurt, the boys got out of the patrol car and walked away before the officers could get their names. As a result of this incident, the Borough charged Downs with "neglect or violation of an official duty, inefficiency, neglect, disobedience of orders and conduct unbecoming an officer," and the Borough Council voted to impose upon him a three-day suspension without pay and a permanent reduction in rank.

Downs appealed to the Civil Service Commission, which found that the evidence established the following:

On January 17, 1978 there were established police procedures which required all police personnel . . . to notify the police dispatcher before leaving the corporate limits of the Borough and before leaving his [ sic ] sector of patrol including section 4.14 and 4.06 of the Police Duty Manual.

Established Borough police procedures on that date also required Sergeant Downs to obtain from the police dispatcher an assigned incident number when he picked up the two young . . . passengers.

Sergeant Downs failed to obtain an incident number and later failed to file an official incident report form ...


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