(CN) - An upstate New York police force properly discharged its chief for associating with a "notorious" suspect: his 29-year-old son, a sate appeals court ruled.
The city of Sherrill fired James T. Hastings as chief of police in February 2011, about a year after Hastings' 6-year-old grandson overdosed on methamphetamine. The chief's son, Jason Hastings, was arrested soon after the child's overdose for buying more than 9 grams of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, a key ingredient to make meth, in one month.
Jason Hastings received a 15-day jail sentence for the crime, but the investigation into his nephew's overdose is still open.
Chief Hastings' dismissal came after a disciplinary board found his relationship with Jason Hastings met the standard for associating with "person(s) notoriously suspected of illegal activities," which is proscribed by state civil service law.
The chief claimed his termination violated his constitutionally protected right of intimate association, but the state's appellate division in Rochester disagreed.
"It is well established that it is within the state's power to regulate the conduct of its police officers even when that conduct involves the exercise of a constitutionally protected right, and we reject petitioner's contention that the departmental regulations are constitutionally overbroad," the unsigned opinion states.
"Moreover, the record supports the conclusion that petitioner's termination was not impermissibly based solely on the existence of petitioner's relationship with his son but instead resulted from concern with regard to maintaining the integrity of the police department," the justices added.
Because Hastings' son is not a child or mentally incapacitated, the case does not deal with a parent's constitutionally protected custodial relationship, the court also noted.
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