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

got his job backLast summer, the police chief in St. Paul,
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

from Hit & Run

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