Two points to make about this: First, state civil service law shouldn't give arbitrators authority to overrule a police chief's decision to fire police officers. That's why those cities have civil service commissions, and it's unfortunate and misguided - an homage to police union power at the Texas Legislature - that state law gives officers who've engaged in serious misconduct so many extra appeals.
During an arbitration hearing that ended Oct. 18, [Officer Kelly] Lincoln admitted that she had used steroids for less than two weeks in 2006 and that she had steroids in her possession at the time of the incident, the document said.
An arbitrator ruled Wednesday that Lincoln's firing was unreasonable and ordered that she be reinstated within three days of the ruling. The arbitrator said in his report that Lincoln volunteered for a drug test, ceased steroid use well before the domestic dispute and holds both a master's degree and an advanced peace officer certificate.
Lincoln's request for back pay was denied. The arbitrator wrote that the seven months without pay should serve as a reminder to Lincoln of Police Chief Theron Bowman's concerns about maintaining the highest standards within the police force.
"The Legislature passed and the city's leaders enacted the arbitration system," said Lt. Blake Miller, police spokesman. "We will abide by the arbitration process."
Second, the arbitrator's reinstatement of Officer Lincoln implies that - as a matter of policy if not in the opinion of the Arlington police chief - that steroid abuse is not a firing offense at that agency. After all, the next steroid abusing officer will point to Kelly Lincoln to convince the next arbitrator that firing defies precedent, and on and on it goes.
In related news, an officer allegedly peddling steroids was arrested in Tennessee last week. Allegedly he tipped off dealers about police surveillance in addition to profiting from the product's sale. Maybe it's time to begin demanding steroid testing of police officers, at least when supervisors suspect steroid use as with a new policy in Albuquerque. It would also help matters to conduct more thorough investigations when law enforcement discovers connections between peace officers and illegal steroid rings.
To be clear, I don't necessarily believe steroids should be illegal, although anecdotal tales of "roid rage" might make steroids inappropriate in any case in the law enforcement profession, where officers must always keep their heads. However as long as steroids remain outlawed, officers who use them expose themselves to black markets and corruption that risk compromising their ability to uphold the law. Police chiefs should be empowered to remove such risks from their departments.
BLOGVERSATION: Lose an Eye, It's a Sport riffs on these themes.