Civil Case Law - Eighth Circuit

8th Circuit (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota)

Cases Upholding Agency Anti-Fraternization Policies

Wieland v. City of Arnold , 100 F. Supp. 2d 984 (E.D. Mo. 2000): A male officer had an on-going, off-duty, personal relationship with a female felony probationer. While off-duty, the officer brought the probationer to a ribbon cutting ceremony, where the two posed for a picture that was published in the local newspaper. The officer was ordered to terminate his relationship, pursuant to a department policy forbidding officer’s from “knowingly associating, on or off duty, with convicted criminals or lawbreakers under circumstances which could bring discredit upon the Department or impair an Officer in the performance of his duty.” He brought an action alleging violation of his right to freedom of association and right to privacy. The court held that the department did not violate the officer’s rights. The court found that it would be a closer case had the two been married, but the dating relationship was not sufficient to invoke a First Amendment claim. The officer’s interest in dating the probationer did not outweigh the city’s interest in maintaining order in its police force.

Department of Corrections v. Derry , 510 S.E.2d 832 (Ga. App. 1998): A correctional officer filed a disciplinary report against an inmate, and the inmate asked a second correctional officer whether he thought the report was harassing. The second officer replied that he believed the report was meant to harass. The second officer was terminated from his position for violating the Department of Corrections rule that stated “Employees shall not, without the express written approval of the appropriate Deputy Commissioner, maintain personal association with, engage in personal business or trade with, or engage in non-job related correspondence with, or correspond in behalf of or for, known inmates....” The State Personnel Board upheld his termination, while the Superior Court reversed the ruling and reinstated the officer. The appellate court reversed the Superior Court’s decision, and upheld the officer’s termination. The court stated it was giving great deference to the Department’s policy, and held that the interest in safety and efficient operations outweighed the officer’s interest in expressing his personal opinion of another officer to an inmate.