Police Abuse

St. Paul Arbitrator Reinstates Cop Fired in Pepper Spray-in-the-Ear Incident Caught on Tape

What's the police chief think he is? In charge?

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got his job back
dashcam

Last summer, the police chief in St. Paul, Minnesota said he wanted to fire Officer Matthew Gorans, who was involved in a violent arrest that had been recorded by a bystander. Gorans wasn't on that video, but he was seen on squad car video the city released, which showed him dragging Eric Hightower, the suspect resisting arrest, into the backseat by his hair and then pepper spraying him in the ear. Gorans' putative penalty was harsher than for the cop seen on the bystander video kicking Hightower, who was suspended for 30 days.

Nevertheless, both officers filed union grievances and this week Gorans, who had cost the city of St. Paul $249,000 in a settlement for an unrelated police brutality claim in 2010, got his job back from an arbitrator. Via the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

The St. Paul Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission found that Gorans intentionally sprayed pepper spray into Hightower's ear during the arrest, but state arbitrator Harley Ogata disagreed. He also found Gorans justified in pulling Hightower into a squad car by his hair as the man resisted officers' attempts to get him in the cruiser.

Ogata ruled that Gorans should be suspended for one day for not filing a complete police report.

"The arbitration decision confirms that officers were dealing with a volatile and rapidly developing situation involving a known dangerous individual with a history of violence, and of resisting and evading arrest," Chris Wachtler, St. Paul Police Federation attorney, said in a statement Monday. "The state-appointed, neutral arbitrator in this case heard the testimony of 20 witnesses over the course of three days, thoroughly and completely reviewed the evidence, and reached the correct decision."

Police Chief Thomas Smith said Monday afternoon he hadn't had a chance to review the findings.

"Obviously, I have to respect the process and live with the arbitrator's decision," he said.

The arbitrator reportedly also wrote that "had the city proved that the grievant had intentionally sprayed Hightower in the ear, a discharge might have been sustained," apparently dismissing the finding of the Internal Affairs commission. The arbitrator also complained the commission didn't seek the opinion of a "use of force trainer" about the pepper spray in the ear. Prosecutors declined to charge Gorans or the other cop, finding insufficient evidence to prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt, but the local FBI office said it was looking into civil rights violations that could have occurred during the arrest. A lawsuit by the police union over release of the squad car video without the officers' faces blurred out, meanwhile, is ongoing.

The arbitrator's decision is not appealable, so Gorans is back on the job even though the police chief doesn't want him there, because that's the deal St. Paul's political leaders gave the city's employees, a similar deal police unions across the country have. They've extended privileges to police officers and other public employees that give them the kind of job security and protections jobs with that kind of potential to damage the lives of residents (through police abuse or a poor education) should never have.

h/t jimbo

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  1. W00t! Hat tip for the win!

  2. See, this is why Obama won’t do anything about Michele Leonhart: he knows the union arbitrator would just give her her job back.

  3. What are the odds that that “unbiased” arbitrator is an ex-cop and/or union rep?

      1. You were off by 0.1%

    1. He was a former labor lawyer for the teachers union.

      http://mn.gov/bms/documents/Resumes/Ogata.pdf

      1. Totally unbiased!

        1. Check out that per diem fee. Holy cow.

          1. Sacrificing to serve you, the public.

          2. 2008 ? present ? Arbitrator in Minnesota public sector exclusively.

            There’s that much work?

            Expenses Actual expenses for food and lodging.

            I’m going to guess he’s not eating at Appleby’s, let alone Burger King. Or staying at the Super 8.

  4. “had the city proved that the grievant had intentionally sprayed Hightower in the ear, a discharge might have been sustained”

    Funny, saying “I didn’t mean to…” never seemed to get me out of being punished when I was younger.

    1. Higher standard… HIGHER STANDARDS!

  5. Jesus. Ban public sector unions, at least entrenched as they are now. We’re getting fucking screwed as a society by this shit.

    1. Sadly, even in states where Republican governors and legislatures are acting against public employee unions they nearly invariably exempt ‘public safety unions’ because, #politicalallies

      1. I know. Amazing.

        I’m all for the freedom of association, but this particular kind of unionization of our overlords is unholy and exceedingly dangerous.

        1. Even FDR knew this.

      2. Not in North Carolina. Public safety unions still banned. (Banned from collective bargaining, it’s in the state constitution.) Relatedly, we actually charge our cops with voluntary manslaughter (two different cases) when they kill someone.

  6. Thank god these heroes are back on the front line of the war against crime.

  7. Yo, Krayewski: What about an article with some stats about the number of cops fired for civil rights violations who get reinstated, mean length of suspension, etc, etc.

  8. The arbitrator also complained the commission didn’t seek the opinion of a “use of force trainer” about the pepper spray in the ear.

    Obviously, any sensible use of force trainer would advocate a fatal beating in the face of this uppity civilian shithead’s failure to obey.

    1. STOP RESISTING WITH YOUR EAR CANAL

        1. No, no! IT WUZ ON THE BATH SALTZ!!11!

  9. Didn’t see the video. I think it’s plausable that if someone is resisting you could hit their ear when aiming for their eye. That being said this cop already cost the city a quarter mill in an unrelated abuse case. the chief should have every right to fire him. This is why so many people hate unions.

    1. It is pretty outrageous. The cop abuses citizens and then taxpayers have to pay a settlement. Then taxpayers pay thousands of dollars to an ex-union lawyer who ‘arbitrates’ the dispute and orders the cop back on the job.

      But I actually do not hate the union. What were they supposed to do, not invoke their contract? I blame the negligent and/or corrupt politicians who would sign such a contract to a union.

      1. But I actually do not hate the union. What were they supposed to do, not invoke their contract? I blame the negligent and/or corrupt politicians who would sign such a contract to a union.

        I hate the public sector union, because the incentives are entirely perverse when compared to a private sector union.

        1. When a private sector union raises costs for its employer, causing it to raise prices, the employer’s customers are free to go somewhere else. Worst case scenario is that the employer goes out of business.

          When a public sector union raises costs for it’s employer, citizens are forced to pay higher taxes. Governments don’t go out of business.

          1. I get that, and as with all on the government’s teat I do not care for public unions, but my point is that it is mainly the government’s fault for agreeing to these insane deals.

            If a private company made a deal with a union that bankrupted it I think I would rightly lay most of the blame on the company for making such a deal, because they did not have to. The same applies to governments that contract with public unions.

            1. I get that, and as with all on the government’s teat I do not care for public unions, but my point is that it is mainly the government’s fault for agreeing to these insane deals.

              But those are the perverse incentives… well, one of a thousand, that I’m talking about.

              It’s in the interest of so-called management in government to bring in the union, get it the best possible deal, and keep it strong.

              bankrupted it I think I would rightly lay most of the blame on the company for making such a deal, because they did not have to. The same applies to governments that contract with public unions.

              Of course you would, and they went bankrupt because, you stopped patronizing them.

              When Officer Gorans next pulls you over, you’re certainly free to say, “No thank you sir, I’m just not interested at this time” and drive off.

            2. The problem is that the government has really poor incentives when dealing with unions. Most of the politicians on the other side of the table have incentives to kick the can down the road and ignore problems.

              In any case, if the government is free to contract with public unions, it’s absolutely the case that the government is free to set its own laws and ban contracting with public unions.

          2. PEF is the Bizarro Union. It funnels campaign contributions to candidates who have publically declared their intent to destroy the workforce (and act shocked when they follow up on it in office) then campaign the membership against the expressed wishes and interests of the members when the vote went against said politician’s wishes.

            But then again, we can’t choose to join or not to join. You are a member if you hold a given title, and must pay dues or dues equivalents. The Union and the Membership are two very different entities with two very different agendas.

        2. Yeah. I don’t think public sector unions should be allowed. Hell, I’d barely allow for a public sector at all.

          1. I guess it depends on what you mean by should not be allowed. I do not think governments should in general collectively bargain, but I do not see how having government employees come together to form lobbying groups or what have you could be forbidden with violating basic rights of association.

            1. You can’t stop them from freely associating. But if they freely associate to go on strike, you fire the lot of them and hire new people.

              Let the cops form all the groups they want. But when they’re fired, they stay fired.

              1. I agree there.

            2. Well, I think even in VA and NC, which are popularly said to “ban public unions,” there are Benevolent Associations and Teacher’s Unions and the like, they just can’t collectively bargain over anything at all.

              Collective bargaining is the really the entire argument. I agree, lobbying and other activities do strike at rights of association.

    2. Hah, hah, hah! If St. Paul hadn’t wasted that $260K on this they could have had nearly 4 bike/pedestrian coordinators. As it is, those sad sacks from the wrong side of the river are way behind us forward thinking folk in Minneapolis

      As the downtrodden pedestrians walk on their shattered glass covered sidewalks they will demand reforms to the police union so they too can have a bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.

  10. […] a similar deal police unions across the country have. They’ve extended privileges to police officers and other public employees that give them the kind of job security and protections jobs with that kind of potential to damage the lives of residents […]

    Higher standards!

  11. Police officer hacks off woman’s hair, gets fired

    I made the following comment:

    This is just a smokescreen: that firing of the cop will be grieved by her union and she’ll be reinstated with back pay.

    I got 101 thumbs up and 40 thumbs down. It seems that people are mostly aware of what is going on with police unions.

    1. The thumbs up were from people happy that the cop would be reinstated.

      1. Possibly. πŸ™‚

        1. I always like to look at the bright side.

          Biden 2016!

  12. I’m all for the freedom of association

    That would imply freedom of disassociation; as in, “Gather up your shit, and GTFO!”

    No backsies.

  13. Slightly OT from the Jezzies

    Officers Who Shot Innocent Women in Dorner Chase ‘Violated Policy’

    http://jezebel.com/officers-wh…..1516414704

  14. Not to get too sidetracked by details, but what does pepper spray do to one’s ear?

    1. It will hurt like a sumbitch and if it’s a strong enough spray (in terms of propellant force, not percentage of capsaicin) I guess it could perforate the eardrum.

    2. Burn. Swelling and irritation of any membrane.

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