This case comes at a time one report notes ” “[t]he issue of arbitration has come to the forefront of a national discussion on accountability in law enforcement.” Deputy fired after allegedly punching man in H-E-B parking lot loses fight to be returned to force
In an Award involving a dispute between a terminated employee and the Bexar County, TX Sheriff’s Office, Arbitrator Louise Wolitz has upheld the termination of a Sergeant in the Sheriff’s Office who had been dismissed for his off duty use of what the Sheriff’s Office asserted, and the Arbitrator found, was excessive use of force.
The dispute involved a claim that the employee of the Sheriff’s office struck another driver who he believed had backed into his truck and attempted to leave the scene while both were in a parking lot. The grievant maneuvered his vehicle into a position to block the other driver from leaving. When the other driver rolled down his window the parties engaged in a brief exchange, and grievant reached in a struck the other driver. During the investigation of the incident grievant maintained that he was attempting to stop the other driver from fleeing the scene and may accidentally have touched him while he was trying to grab the steering wheel. At the hearing, grievant acknowledged that he had struck the other driver.
Arbitrator Wolitz concluded that the Sheriff’s Office was confronted “with a clear case of excessive use of force.”
On the propriety of termination, the Arbitrator noted:
The question of the punishment was for the Sheriff and the command officers to decide. After an investigation, they were unanimous in the decision to discharge Mr. Anderson. … There was video evidence that [the other driver] was subject to an unjustified use of force by a law enforcement officer. This was clearly conduct unbecoming a law enforcement officer and, if it became public, would bring discredit on the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. There was no reason to believe it would not become public. The records were subject to public release. The conduct would be detrimental and have an adverse affect on the Sheriff’s office if it were discussed in the media. … Moreover, the fact that Mr. Anderson did not acknowledge his conduct and came up with an unconvincing story that he was simply trying to stop the car, called into question his honesty in other actions in the department and destroyed his credibility as a witness in court. His story was easily determined not credible by the available video evidence, especially when there were other ways to attempt to get [the other driver’s] identification without using physical force. The disciplinary decision was for the command officers and the Bexar County Sheriff to make. There is no evidence in this record which requires the arbitrator to change their unanimous judgment.