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JAMES W. HERMAN v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (04/24/84)

decided: April 24, 1984.

JAMES W. HERMAN, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF GENERAL SERVICES, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the State Civil Service Commission in case of James W. Herman v. Department of General Services, Appeal No. 4129.

COUNSEL

P. Richard Wagner, Mancke, Lightman & Wagner, for petitioner.

Russel H. Albert, Assistant Counsel, with him, Anthony P. Krzywicki, Chief Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Rogers, MacPhail and Barry, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry.

Author: Barry

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 639]

Petitioner, James W. Herman, Jr., seeks review of an adjudication by the Civil Service Commission (Commission) which sustained an action of the Department of General Services (General Services) which demoted him from his position as Police Officer I, regular status, of the Capitol Police Force to a Security Officer in the Bureau of Police Safety.

Petitioner became a member of the Capitol Police Force in January of 1973. By a letter dated August 4, 1982, General Services demoted the petitioner from Police Officer I, regular status, effective August 6, 1982, because of a psychological evaluation which indicated that he should not be armed with a lethal weapon, and was not capable of handling potentially stressful situations.

Prior to his demotion, on November 28, 1981, Harrisburg Hospital admitted the petitioner following an attempted suicide. Consequently, General Services relieved the petitioner of his weapon for a period of six months pending observation and further evaluation. General Services directed the petitioner to undergo a psychological evaluation in order to ascertain petitioner's competence to carry a lethal weapon. During the time from which petitioner returned to work until his demotion, deterioration in petitioner's performance, previously noted by his supervisors, continued and resulted in a written reprimand for excessive use of unscheduled leave.

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 640]

Two professional opinions were elicited concerning a psychological evaluation of the petitioner. Dr. Paul F. Phillips, a psychiatrist, testified that, when he examined petitioner, it was his professional belief that the petitioner should not be armed with a lethal weapon. Dr. Phillips based his assessment on petitioner's self-destructive and violent tendencies.

Dr. Jeffrey A. Cohen, a psychologist, who testified on behalf of the petitioner, stated that the stress which precipitated the petitioner's attempted suicide in November, 1981, was attributable to marital difficulties. Dr. Cohen further testified that, since then, the petitioner has resolved his marital situation which lessened the prior stress. Dr. Cohen testified, moreover, that after he had conducted stress tests and evaluations about the use of lethal weapons, the petitioner had passed the lethal weapons examination and showed a safe reading concerning stress or tension.

Following a recommendation by Dr. Phillips, the Commission decided to place petitioner in a less stressful position and offered him a choice between a demotion to a Security Officer I, civil service status, or Custodial Worker I, non-civil service status. When petitioner elected neither alternative, the Commission involuntarily demoted him to a position of Security Officer I in the Bureau of Police and Safety. The Commission did so based on Dr. Phillips' psychological evaluation of the petitioner.

It is the duty of this Court to determine whether constitutional rights were violated, an error of law was committed, or necessary factual findings were unsupported by substantial evidence. Woodville State Hospital v. Ault, 70 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 112, 452 A.2d 617 (1982); Laws v. Philadelphia County Board of Assistance, ...


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