Police & Fire Commissions

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152. While it is not entirely clear, a police and fire commission with optional powers under sec. 62.13(6), Stats., rather than the governing body, has authority to adopt residency rules for police officers. Therefore, a rule adopted by a police and fire commission with optional powers allowing police officers to reside outside the municipality probably controls over a municipal ordinance requiring police officers to be residents of the city. This conclusion is consistent with Police and Fire Commissions,90. (12/31/97).

153. A police and fire commission without optional powers under sec. 62.13(6), Stats., lacks authority to review and approve police or fire department bills. 12/22/98.

154. A police and fire commission without optional powers under sec. 62.13(6), Stats., has no general supervisory control over police department employees, sworn or unsworn. Therefore, such a commission has no authority to demand access on a routine basis to police department employee personnel records, such as employee performance evaluations. The commission may, like anyone else, make a request to inspect such records under the public records law. 12/22/98.

155. Joint police and fire commission formed by a town and village may exercise optional powers only if the electors in both the town and the village authorize the grant of optional powers at a referendum. See secs. 61.65(3g)(d)2 and 60.55(1)(a)2, Stats. 3/2/00.

156. Summarizes the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision in Antisdel v. City of Oak Creek Police and Fire Commission, 2000 WI 35, where the court held that a police officer who was appointed to sergeant on a one-year probationary basis was entitled to the just cause procedure under sec. 62.13(5)(em), Stats., when the chief ordered him to resume his former position as a police officer before he completed the probation period. The court held that Antisdel was entitled to the just cause procedure set forth in sec. 62.13(5)(em) because he was a subordinate reduced in rank based on a disciplinary charge filed by the police chief. The court concluded that the procedure in sec. 62.13(5)(em) makes no exception for a subordinate who is promoted on a probationary basis. 4/28/00.

157. A police and fire commission rule that provides for the use of a hearing examiner in §62.13(5), Stats. disciplinary proceedings but does not delegate to the examiner authority to render a final decision or disposition is a valid exercise of a police and fire commission's rulemaking authority under Wis. Stat. §62.13(5)(g). Conway v. Board of the Police and Fire Commissioners of the City of Madison, No. 01-0784 (Ct. App. May 9, 2002). 5/31/02.

158. City council member's mere presence as non-voting member of police and fire commission panel establishes sufficient appearance of impropriety to taint entire disciplinary proceedings against officer and require such proceedings to be voided and circuit court may consider such legal issue by way of certiorari review before addressing just cause issues under Wis. Stat. §62.13(5)(i) statutory appeal. State ex rel. Heil v. Green Bay Police and Fire Commission, No. 01-1781 (July 2, 2002) (recommended for publication). 7/31/02.

159. A police and fire commission rule that provides for the use of a hearing examiner in sec. 62.13(5), Stats., disciplinary proceedings but does not delegate to the examiner authority to render a final decision or disposition is a valid exercise of a police and fire commission's rulemaking authority under Wis. Stat. sec. 62.13 (5)(g). Joseph Conway, Jr. et. al. v. Board of the Police and Fire Commissioners of the City of Madison, 2003 WI 53, aff'g 2002 WI App 135, 256 Wis. 2d 163, 647 N.W.2d 291. 5/30/03.

160. Wisconsin police chiefs and police and fire commissions are authorized to promote subordinates within a department on a probationary basis, provided the probation is reasonable in duration. This power is inherent in the appointment authority granted to police chiefs and PFCs by sec. 62.13(4), Stats., and is further supported by PFC rulemaking authority in sec. 62.13(6), Stats., and public policy. Kraus v. City of Waukesha Police and Fire Commission, 2003 WI 51. 5/30/03.

161. A police officer who is promoted on a probationary basis but returned to his or prior rank for nondisciplinary reasons is not entitled to a just cause hearing under sec. 62.13(5)(em), Stats. Kraus v. City of Waukesha Police and Fire Commission, 2003 WI 51. 5/30/03.

162. A fire chief's decision to return a firefighter promoted on a probationary basis to his previous rank for failure to successfully complete probation may not be subjected to arbitration. City of Madison v. WERC and IAFF Local 311, 2003 WI 52. 5/30/03.

163. A firefighter who is terminated from city service after a "just cause" hearing before a police and fire commission (PFC) pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 62.13(5)(em) cannot pursue a discrimination complaint regarding the termination before the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA). City of Madison v. Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, 2003 WI 76. 7/1/03.

164. The statutory procedure under Wis. Stat. sec. 62.13(5)(i) is not the exclusive remedy for review of a police and fire commission decision. Questions of law relating to whether the commission kept within its jurisdiction and proceeded under a correct theory of the law may be brought in a separate certiorari action even when they relate to the issues decided in the statutory review proceeding. Gentilli v. Board of the Police and Fire Commissioners of the City of Madison, 2004 WI 60, __ Wis. 2d __, 680 N.W.2d 335. 7/30/04.

165. Legal comment explains the duties and powers of the police and fire commission in Wisconsin, including optional powers, and when the creation of PFC is mandatory or permissive. Discusses PFC composition and how the body fits into a municipality’s organizational structure. 2/27/09.

166. Statement in League Handbook for Police and Fire Commissioners suggesting that there is consensus that if a public safety director also serves as a municipality’s police chief, fire chief or both, that person’s appointment is a responsibility of the police and fire commission is unsupported by authority. Where governing body has delegated administrative oversight of day-to-day management of departments to public safety director who serves as conduit between police and fire departments and governing body, and duties and responsibilities do not intrude upon any of the areas statutorily reserves to the PFC, the PFC need not have any involvement in the appointment or oversight of that person. 2/26/13.

167. Comment provides overview of Police and Fire Commission disciplinary process steps and legal requirements.  Written by Paul W. Schwarzenbart, Partner, Stafford Rosenbaum LLP. 8/31/15.  The complete text of this legal comment is on page 355 of the October 2015 edition of the Municipality.