A Riverside police officer who took disability retirement to avoid termination was “honorably retired,” according to the California Court of Appeal. In Bonome v. City of Riverside, the court said the City must either grant the officer’s request for his retirement identification badge with a CCW endorsement, or provide a good cause hearing.
In June of 2012 an internal affairs investigation was opened with Officer Bonome as the subject officer. On October 10, 2012 Officer Bonome suffered an on-duty back injury. In May of 2013 the internal affairs investigation sustained allegations for failure to investigate and prepare a police report. The Chief reviewed the report and declared his intention to terminate Officer Bonome.
The officer’s attorney was able to set out the Skelly hearing. This allowed Officer Bonome to complete his application for industrial disability retirement. The termination proceedings were suspended when the retirement became official.
Shortly after, the Assistant Chief sent notice to Officer Bonome’s attorney saying the Department would not issue a CCW endorsement. Additionally, the Department would not offer a good cause hearing. According to the Chief, Officer Bonome was not “honorably retired.” The officer brought suit seeking to compel the Chief to issue the retirement badge with a CCW endorsement, or provide a good cause hearing.
The case centered on the correct definition of an honorably retired peace officer. Penal Code §16690 says an honorably retired peace officer is any officer who has qualified for, and had accepted a service or disability retirement. However, this does not include officers who agreed to a service retirement in lieu of termination. According to the City, the Legislature must have meant to exclude all officers who retired to avoid termination. The Court was not persuaded.
Officer Bonome argued, and the Court agreed, he was an honorably retired peace officer. The statute only excludes peace officers who take a service retirement in lieu of termination. According to the Court, an officer cannot choose to take a disability retirement to avoid termination. Either an officer is disabled, and unable to perform his or her duties, or not. Officer Bonome was evaluated after sustaining an on-duty injury to his back, and the evaluation recommended a disability retirement. The Chief’s intent to terminate was irrelevant.
The Court noted, the City does not have to grant the CCW endorsement. Penal Code §25920 says CCW permits for honorably retired officers can be denied or revoked. However, to do this the City must show good cause as to why.