A Denver police officer has been terminated for a 2014 incident where he used excessive force against a combative female detainee in a holding cell. It's his second time getting fired for the same incident.
What happened? The officer, James Medina, was fired last March, seven months after the incident. He has the privilege (called a "right" by labor activists who have in the last two years tried nevertheless to glom on to the police reform movement) of appealing his termination, and took advantage of it.
Last July, a "Civil Service Commission" hearing officer found that while Medina had violated multiple department policies, including "inappropriate" use of force and failing to report use of force in a timely manner, he should only receive a sixty-day suspension. The hearing officer said he made the decision in part because Medina was never "advised" that he could have been terminated for brutalizing the female detainee.
This week, the civil service board overruled last year's decision, terminating Medina again.
As police reform activists celebrate the defeat of prosecutors in Chicago and Cleveland who failed to prosecute cops involved in fatal shootings, the case of James Medina is a cautionary tale. There's a bevy of privileges embedded in the law that has the effect of protecting bad cops—these privileges have largely been won by public unions, organizations that have also generally backed, and continue to back, politicians who now claim to be concerned about police reform.
Some police reform is possible without breaking the police unions, of course, but systemic issues like the ones illustrated by the Medina case will require police unions to lose much of the power elected officials at the local and state levels have granted them over the last 40 years. Otherwise, prosecutors and other politicians may keep getting defeated but bad cops will keep joining, and returning to, police departments around the country.