Do you remember the case in San Marcos a couple of years back when the police officer pulled over a couple rushing their dog to the emergency vet and let the animal die while he kept them there on the side of the road, telling them, "It's a dog, okay ... You can get another one"? Well, last year the same cop was fired over a separate incident where the department found he had violated its use of force policy by improperly using his baton and shoving
An arbitrator has rejected the indefinite suspension of a San Marcos Police Department officer fired last year over a use of force complaint and for making a false report about the incident.
In a June 23 decision, the arbitrator ruled that Officer Paul Stephens should be punished instead with a 15 day unpaid suspension. Stephens was re-hired by the department, who now owe him back pay since he was terminated, Police Chief Howard Williams said today.
In October, Stephens was fired by Williams, who said that Stephens used his baton unnecessarily against a woman who was not a threat to him during an incident outside a bar around 2 a.m.
In his report, Stephens wrote that the people were fighting, that the woman tripped on the curb and that she continued to fight with others after that. However, his patrol car video showed that none in the group were fighting, the memo said.
According to the memo, Stephens later admitted to Cmdr. Terry Nichols, who conducted the internal investigation, that the people in group were not fighting. Stephens also spoke with several officers about the investigation after being ordered not to do so.
Williams fired Stephens for violating the use of force policy, not fully disclosing the truth about the incident and insubordination.
Stephens appealed the termination to an independent arbitrator, Richard R. Brann, who on June 23 issued a decision saying Stephens did not violate the use of force policy. The arbitrator upheld that Stephens violated the order not to talk about the incident, but said that this did not interfere with the investigation and did not merit termination. Brann also ruled that he was not deliberately dishonest during the investigation into the incident.Both parties must agree on an arbitrator - a strange practice in disciplinary proceedings under the civil service code that's the equivalent of requiring that criminal defendants agree to the judge who will decide their case, letting them veto those who might be too harsh. Decisions like this one certainly will ensure Mr. Brann's name will remain on the list of arbitrators that police unions are willing to hire.
This officer deployed his baton unnecessarily and attacked a woman who didn't threaten him, according to his supervisors, and his actions in the previous incident brought national disgrace to the department. But in Texas civil service cities, in most instances it's nearly impossible to fire bad cops no matter how badly they screw up. This guy's a statewide poster boy for that fact.