Pa. Arbitrators Often Reinstate Accused Cops


Arbitrators in Pennsylvania frequently reinstate police officers who are dismissed for misconduct, the Philadelphia Inquirer says.

In one case, the Pennsylvania State Police tried to fire Trooper Rodney Smith in 1995, when he shoved a gun in a woman’s mouth and threatened to kill her. In another, Trooper Robert Johnson was told to turn in his badge in 1996 after being arrested on shoplifting charges in Cheltenham.

Arbitrators reinstated the troopers. The judge handling both cases on appeal expressed frustration. “Under the present state of the law,” Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini wrote, “if Smith had ‘blown off’ the woman’s head, as he explicitly threatened to do with the gun in his hand, and the arbitrator had put him back on the job as a law enforcement officer, this court could do nothing.”

State police administrators are at the mercy of arbitrators whose decisions are protected by law. Through arbitration, 29 of the 61 troopers dismissed by state police since 1988 were reinstated. That includes four of the 14 troopers dismissed for sexual misconduct from 1995 to 2001.

In reviewing the state police’s handling of misconduct cases, state Inspector General Donald L. Patterson issued a report last month that described a system fraught with internal problems. He concluded that “the discipline, if any, was often minimal, disparate, or diminished during the grievance process.”


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