Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What does it take to get a bad cop fired in civil service cities?

What in God's name does it take to get a bad cop fired in towns where arbitrators can trump police management decisions?

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 against a woman who wasn't threatening him (according to dashcam video of the incident) and then lying to internal affairs investigators. But an arbitrator out of Houston last month gave the guy his job back and awarded him back pay. Here's the description of the case from Patrick George at the Austin Statesman:
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.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's pretty much the same way with bad school teachers. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Who pays for the arbitrators?

Nearly all companies in America are putting "clauses" on their product or their services that if you are wanting to "sue" the company you must go through an "arbitrator."

I know the companies pay a "dues" to the arbitrators in Texas and nearly all companies win when a regular citizens goes before a arbitrator against a company.

Who pays the "dues" for these police officers? Police unions?

Old Cop said...

Some of these kind of problems can be solved by an honest, diligent prosecutor and/or the local Grand Jury....Perjury, False Report to a Peace Officer, Official Oppression, Assault, to name a few possibilities. Clowns like this need to be indicted and prosecuted like anybody else guilty of breaking the law. Burn his "ash" for giving the good officers a bad name.

Donald said...

It seems to me that your objection goes to the merits of the arbitrator's decision, not the merits of the civil service laws.

Judges sometimes make decisions that you or I think are unwise or just plain wrong. That's not a reason to dispense with courts.

Anonymous said...

Old Cop said...

Some of these kind of problems can be solved by an honest, diligent prosecutor and/or the local Grand Jury....Perjury, False Report to a Peace Officer, Official Oppression, Assault, to name a few possibilities.


Maybe you need to start from within? The code of silence seems to still be popular with police.

You very rarely read any stories in the U.S. of cops turning in other cops for abuse, brutality or crimes being broken.

Those rare occasions when the police are caught doing something wrong, the police department never has a problem letting the officer resign and then sweeping it all under the rug.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No Donald, I don't have enough information to judge the merits of the arbitrator's decision. My concern is the fact that in civil service cities police administrators have lost control of their departments and it's difficult bordering on impossible to fire bad cops.

Anonymous said...

Tell you what's going to suck big time if it's passed. God help us all!

Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (H.R. 413)

Anonymous said...

anyone else not surprised?


-Greg

Anonymous said...

hey the economy is bad, lay him off due to 'downsizing'

R. Shackleford said...

He needs to do hard time. Penalties for cops should be much stiffer than penalties for Joe Shmoe. 2:41 is also correct, the blue wall needs to be torn down, you guys need to police yourselves with great fervor.

Nick said...

to be fair, the dude was in the middle of a bunch of people on the square and he pushed her, not all that hard either, and she tripped over a curb or planter or something similar on the ground. He didn't use his baton on her. Not really a fireable offense.
BUT when you see that this guy has a history of being a bonehead, then yea, get rid of him.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Nick, the Chief says "that Stephens used his baton unnecessarily against a woman who was not a threat to him." Where do you get the info that he only "pushed" her and didn't use the baton?

Anonymous said...

Anyone heard about this one?
****

TX DPS Trooper - DAVID RIGGS - Wise County - Decatur (Decatur)

How many of you have had the misfortune to have encountered Trooper David Riggs in his official capacity? Meaning - an illegal traffic stop, illegal search and seizure, violation of your civil rights, solicitation of sex-drugs-or money, etc.?

If so, we would like to hear and document (Confidentially) your event for our database.

Unprofessional behavior and unlawful practices will not be tolerated?

Nick said...

I'm going on the video of the encounter that I have seen played along with the news story. His insubordination and lying about it were more likely the reason he was fired. I'm not saying that this guy should be reinstated by any measure, but he didn't just hop out of the squad car and start whackin this girl with his asp or anything.
http://www.newstreamz.com/wp-content/uploads/COBAN-MVR-Video-of-Paul-Stephens-Use-of-Force-Video-8-18-09.mpg

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why bloggers can’t be taken seriously. They look at a news headline and assume facts not in evidence. Do a little research instead of trying to incite a crowd.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks Nick, I hadn't seen the video and will take a look.

As for 10:18's who thinks "This is exactly why bloggers can’t be taken seriously" ... is that because I took the police chief at his word? Hmmmmm. Should I assume he's lying?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Okay, just watched the video. Don't know why you say he pushed her "not all that hard." The fat bastard knocked her clean off her feet, and in an absurdly cavalier fashion.

He didn't hit her with the asp but he brandished it menacingly, engaged in unprovoked violence, and of course we don't know what happened off camera.

A police chief should be allowed to make the call that such behavior is unbecoming of an officer. In civil service cities, they can't.

Anonymous said...

Now I get it. It is okay to rant about something without checking the facts if you base your thinking or hearsay. Cool.

Anonymous said...

"This officer used his baton unnecessarily against a woman who didn't threaten him, according to his supervisors, and his actions in the previous incident brought national disgrace to the department."

The video is very compelling and I agree. I would not want this guy for a partner or be put in situation where I would have to provide his backup since he no doubt escalated this situation.

If I were the chief, I would at the least contact the FBI to see if they would open a civil rights investigation and contact the grand jury foreman for grand jury investigation.


Retired LE

Anonymous said...

A similar situation to the top TYC people that covered up the youth abuse. Some were shuffled around and hidden even more and none were ever held accountable for the downfall of the state agency.Many should have done jail time but their protectors prevented any real justice.

Anonymous said...

If I were the chief, I would at the least contact the FBI to see if they would open a civil rights investigation and contact the grand jury foreman for grand jury investigation.

The police chief has no standing to assert the civil rights of the victim.

And if the victim asserts them, the city will pay for the damages. So that will never be encouraged by the city, or any of their employees.

Rage

Anonymous said...

Watching the video I believe that the cop should be removed from the streets of Texas one way or another. This cop is a danger to all citizens!

Good thing Texans carry guns, cuz I'd sure use mine on him in a heartbeat!

Does this cop have children? Maybe a baton shoved at them would be ok? How about that arbitrator, he have kids?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:58, people are allowed to have opinions about articles they read in the newspaper. And when someone pointed out information I hadn't seen, I admitted my error and corrected the story, though the clarification doesn't change my overall take on the incident. At least I've got the cojones when I make mistakes to do so under my own name. Who are you?

Also, if a civilian had shoved that fat tub of lard in an identical fashion and he'd fallen down, what charges do you suppose would be filed against the person? It'd sure be more than a 15-day suspension at work.

Anonymous said...

I would still contact them Rage. That documents my file that even though I tried to terminate his employment and was overturned that I'm trying to do all that I can to manage the department's risk where this officer is concerned.

If they don't want to come in, ok. It keeps you from asking me why I didn't try to do more.

Anonymous said...

Now you've made your weekly cojones comment. Feel better?

R. Shackleford said...

He probably does feel better, 4:46. I reckon cops wouldn't be half so arrogant if everyone was armed. Guys like this little turd cop seem to me to be that kid who got his ass whooped in high school for being the creepy little shite he obviously is, how could you possibly defend his actions? This "cops are right, civilians are wrong" kind of attitude is one of the main reasons civvies distrust cops. Keep it up, and you'll find out how hard it is to police a society when everyone won't even speak to le. We are policed BY CONSENT, piss off enough of us and we'll change the rules on you, and you and your ilk will be out on your ass. Can't wait, personally.

Charlie O said...

Hear, hear Rusty. I couldn't agree more. Say hi John Redcorn for me.

Anonymous said...

There is a Revolution coming! Us against them (Bad cops and Government).

BTW, TX State Trooper David Riggs (the former scourge of Wise County)has moved on the be a Flying State Trooper in McAllen. Harassing those along the border.