Sponick v. City of Detroit Police Dept.

Decision Date29 August 1973
Docket NumberNo. 1,Docket Nos. 15396--15398,1
Citation211 N.W.2d 674,49 Mich.App. 162
PartiesGerald SPONICK, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The CITY OF DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT et al., Defendants-Appellees. Cyril RICKARD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The CITY OF DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT et al., Defendants-Appellees. Roy DAUGHERTY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The CITY OF DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT et al., Defendants-Appellees
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Armand D. Bove, Grosse Pointe Woods, for Sponick.

Robert S. Harrison, Harrison, Friedman and Roberson, Detroit, for Rickard and Daugherty.

Michael M. Glusac, Corp. Counsel, John E. Cross, Asst. Corp. Counsel, Detroit, for appellee.

Before BRONSON, P.J., and R. B. BURNS and VanVALKENBURG,* JJ.

R. B. BURNS, Judge.

Appellants, three Detroit police officers, were disciplined, after hearings before separate departmental trial boards, for various violations of the rules and regulations of the Detroit Police Department. Each officer sought review of the disciplinary action taken against him by filing in the Wayne County Circuit Court a complaint for an order of superintending control directed against appellees. In each case the circuit court refused to issue the order, thus affirming the trial boards. This Court granted each appellant's application for leave to appeal and, on its own motion, ordered the cases consolidated.

The facts will be detailed as pertinent to our discussion of the several claims of error advanced by appellants.

I. THE CHARGES AGAINST APPELLANTS

Sergeant Gerald R. Sponick was found guilty of all four charges of misconduct levied against him. Specification I: knowingly submitting a false daily log for his activities while on duty on November 17, 1970, in violation of Detroit Police Manual, ch. 3, § 34(21). Specification II: conduct unbecoming an officer in that he did 'knowingly and intentionally have contact on November 17, 1970, November 20, 1970, and December 4, 1970, with a convicted criminal', in violation of Detroit Police Manual, ch. 3, 34(8). Specification III: 'knowingly and intentionally associat(ing) with a convicted criminal' on March 12, 1971, and April 30, 1971, in violation of Detroit Police Manual, ch. 3, § 34(41). Specification IV: neglect of duty in that he failed to timely report 'knowingly and intentionally hav(ing had) contact on March 12, 1971, and April 30, 1971, with a convicted criminal', in violation of Detroit Police Manual, ch. 4, § 73, and ch. 3, § 34(10). The involved provisions of the Detroit Police Manual are reproduced in the margin. 1 Two charges of misconduct were levied against Sergeant Cyril Rickard. Specification I: knowingly submitting false daily logs for his activities while on duty on February 5, 1971, March 4, 1971, and April 2, 1971, in violation of Detroit Police Manual, ch. 3, § 34(21). Specification II: failing to timely report 'knowingly and intentionally hav(ing had) contact on February 5, 1971, March 4, 1971, and April 2, 1971', with a convicted criminal, in violation of Detroit Police Manual, ch. 4, § 73, and ch. 3, § 34(10). Sergeant Rickard was found guilty of Specification I, but not guilty of Specification II.

Two charges of misconduct were also filed against Sergeant Roy A. Daugherty. Specification I: neglect of duty in that he failed to timely report 'knowingly and intentionally hav(ing had) contact on February 17, 1971, with a convicted criminal', in violation of the Detroit Police Manual, ch. 4, § 73, and ch. 3, § 34(10). Specification II: conduct unbecoming an officer in that he 'did, while on duty on May 20, 1970, knowingly and intentionally have contact with a convicted criminal', in violation of the Detroit Police Manual, ch. 3, § 34(8). Sergeant Daugherty was found guilty of both specifications.

Sergeant Sponick claims that the charges against him are premised on unconstitutional rules and regulations.

A. Conduct Unbecoming An Officer

It is our opinion that the regulation proscribing 'conduct unbecoming an officer' is too vague to be valid. We base our holding on the cases of Avrech v. Secretary of the Navy, 477 F.2d 1237 (D.C.Cir., 1973); and Hamtramck Civil Service Commission v. Pitlock, 44 Mich.App. 410, 205 N.W.2d 293 (1973).

In Avrech v. Secretary of the Navy, Supra, 477 F.2d at 1241, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in an opinion authored by Mr. Justice Clark, struck down Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C.A. § 934 which article imposes criminal sanctions on 'all disorders and neglects (not specifically mentioned in this chapter) to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces' and 'all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces'. Article 134 was struck down because it 'gives no fair warning of the conduct it proscribes and fails to provide any ascertainable standard of guilt to circumscribe the discretion of the enforcing authorities'. The analysis applied to Article 134 is equally applicable to that regulation of the Detroit Police Department which proscribes all conduct 'not specifically mentioned in the rules and regulations which tends to bring the department into disrepute or reflects discredit upon the individual as an officer'. See also Levy v. Parker, 478 F.2d 772 (C.A.3, 1973).

In Hamtramck Civil Service Commission v. Pitlock, Supra, 44 Mich.App. at 413--414, 205 N.W.2d at 294--295, a panel of this Court, in an opinion authored by Judge, now Justice, Levin, ordered one Robert Pitlock reinstated to his position with the City of Hamtramck. Pitlock had been discharged because his act of driving a city truck at a time when his driver's license had been suspended was deemed 'conduct unbecoming an officer or employee of the city', in violation of Rule XII, § 5 of the Hamtramck Civil Service Rules and Regulations. It was held by this Court that a 'rule proscribing 'conduct unbecoming an officer or employee of the city' presents a standard or guide so impalpable as to be no standard at all' and, as such, is not in compliance with that provision of the Hamtramck City Charter authorizing the civil service commission to 'adopt and amend rules and regulations'. Detroit Police Manual, ch. 3, § 34(8), is no more certain a standard and, therefore, is not a valid exercise of the Police Commissioner's authority to 'make all proper rules for the government and discipline' of the department. Detroit Charter, Title 4, ch. 21, § 5(a).

Accordingly, we hold that Specification II against Sergeant Sponick and Specification II against Sergeant Daugherty must be, and are hereby, dismissed.

A contrary holding is not required by those decisions of our Supreme Court affirming the discharge of a police officer because of conduct unbecoming an officer. See Purdie v. Detroit Police Department Trial Board, 318 Mich. 430, 28 N.W.2d 283 (1947), and Aller v. Detroit Police Police Department Trial Board, 309 Mich. 382, 15 N.W.2d 676 (1944). In neither of those cases was there a challenge to the propriety of the regulation which prohibited conduct unbecoming an officer. Therefore, the decisions of the Supreme Court should not be read as upholding the regulation.

B. Associating With Criminals

I.

It is further claimed by Sergeant Sponick that the regulation which prohibits associating with convicted or suspected criminals is also unconstitutionally vague. He cites DeGrazio v. Chicago Civil Service Commission, 31 Ill.2d 482, 202 N.E.2d 522 (1964). We disagree.

Detroit Police Manual, ch. 3, § 34(41), does not have the defects of uncertainty found in Rule 309 of the Chicago Police Department. The Detroit rule proscribes knowing and intentional association, except in the line of duty, with persons convicted, charged, or suspected of any crime other than traffic offenses and municipal ordinance violations. Thus, it can be readily ascertained from the face of the regulation that arrest and conviction records are included within the meaning of the regulation, that all felonies and many misdemeanors are also included, and that a single arrest or conviction constitutes a 'criminal record'. Since only knowing and intentional associations are proscribed, it is readily apparent that the individual officer must know that the individual has been convicted of, is charged with, or is suspected of, some crime. Because the regulation is so all-inclusive, we think it fairly within the apparent meaning of the regulation that no time limit be placed on prior criminal activity. Finally, the word 'associate' is not an obscure term. It means more than 'incidental contracts' between police officers and known criminals. Cf. Arciniega v. Freeman, 404 U.S. 4, 92 S.Ct. 22, 30 L.Ed.2d 126 (1971). To 'associate' with a known criminal means to join with him for a particular purpose as 'a partner, fellow worker, colleague, friend, companion or ally'. DiMarco v. Greene, 385 F.2d 556, 561 (C.A.6, 1967); and Weir v. United States, 92 F.2d 634 (C.A.7, 1937), cert. den. 302 U.S. 761, 58 S.Ct. 368, 82 L.Ed. 590 (1937), reh. den. 302 U.S. 781, 58 S.Ct. 479, 82 L.Ed. 603 (1938).

Therefore, it is our opinion that Detroit Police Manual, ch. 3, § 34(41) gives police officers 'fair warning' of that conduct which it proscribes. See Section I--A of this opinion.

2.

However, statutes and administrative regulations which are precise and which do accomplish some legitimate governmental end are, nonetheless, unconstitutional if they 'broadly stifle fundamental personal liberties when the end can be more narrowly achieved'. Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479, 488, 81 S.Ct. 247, 252, 5 L.Ed.2d 231, 237 (1960); United States v. Robel, 389 U.S. 258, 88 S.Ct. 419, 19 L.Ed.2d 508 (1967); Schneider v. Smith, 390 U.S. 17, 88 S.Ct. 682, 19 L.Ed.2d 799 (1968); and Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 92 S.Ct. 2294, 33 L.Ed.2d 222 (1972). Sergeant Sponick claims that such is the defect of Detroit Police Manual, ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
44 cases
  • Bundo v. City of Walled Lake
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • January 27, 1976
    ...that the plaintiff must be afforded what has come to be called 'rudimentary due process.' In Sponick v. Detroit Police Department, 49 Mich.App. 162, 189, 211 N.W.2d 674, 686 (1973) rudimentary due process was said to require: '(i) timely written notice detailing the reasons for proposed adm......
  • People v. Warner
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • October 1, 1976
    ...was no evidence indicating the possibility of an illegal electronic surveillance. Similarly, see Sponick v. Detroit Police Department, 49 Mich.App. 162, 197, 211 N.W.2d 674, 690 (1973), where it was held that the defendants did not have standing because they did not allege that they were ag......
  • Fabio v. Civil Service Commission of City of Philadelphia
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • April 30, 1980
    ...see : Bence v. Breier, 501 F.2d 1185 (7th Cir. 1974); Flynn v. Giarruss, 321 F.Supp. 1295 (D.C.La.1971); and Sponick v. Detroit Police Dept., 49 Mich.App. 162, 211 N.W.2d 674 (1973).8 In Souder v. Philadelphia, 305 Pa. 1, 156 A. 245 (1931), a captain of the police force was charged in a gra......
  • U.S. v. Torres
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • March 25, 1985
    ...People v. Teicher, 52 N.Y.2d 638, 652, 439 N.Y.S.2d 846, 853, 422 N.E.2d 506, 513 (1981); Sponick v. City of Detroit Police Dep't, 49 Mich.App. 162, 198, 211 N.W.2d 674, 690 (1973); Carr, The Law of Electronic Surveillance 124 (1977). The statute regulates only the "interception of wire or ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT