July 3, 2008
Fired to rehired City's record poor when dismissals go to arbitration
The Cincinnati Police Department tried and failed 19 times to fire officers and dispatchers in the past decade. One officer tackled an unarmed Alzheimer's patient, resulting in a $700,000 settlement. Another was accused of shooting a woman with a Taser and then taunting her. Two others drove a drunken woman home and had sex with her while on duty. Police administrators fired all the officers, including one who was fired twice. But many of them are back at work today. An Enquirer analysis of personnel files found that 35 police firing cases have been resolved since 1998. The firings stuck with 16 officers, but 11 of those cases involved criminal charges that made it difficult or, in some cases, impossible for the officers to return to work.
The other five did not appeal their firings, lost their appeals or resigned.
The 19 remaining cases ended with a settlement or an arbitrator's ruling that returned the fired officers to the job.
• Video: Officer Robert Hill tackles an unarmed Alzheimer's patient at an ice cream counter (Provided by WLWT Channel 5)
• City loses: Read the arbitrator's decision in the Robert Hill case
• City wins: Read the arbitrator's decision in the Elizabeth Phillips case
The appeals process is the main reason so many officers come back. Independent arbitrators ruled against the city and reinstated fired officers in 16 of the 18 cases they decided in the past 10 years.
The police union sees the appeals as crucial protection against unfair or excessive discipline. But city officials say the inability to keep fired officers off the payroll erodes public confidence, increases the city's financial liability and creates the impression the police department cannot police itself.
"It bothers me that the threshold is set by the city of Cincinnati, but is not upheld by arbitrators," said Police Chief Tom Streicher.
"I think citizens have a right to demand total honesty from a police officer." [Mark Godsey]
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