In 2013, Miami homicide detectives were closing in on suspects in the robbery and killing of a manager at a cellphone store six years earlier. They were focusing on police officer Adrian Rodriguez, who had worked at the cellphone store before joining the Miami Police Department and was working there the night the manager was ambushed and shot to death. When Rodriguez refused to cooperate with detectives, the police chief fired him. Rodriguez then did what many other police officers have done to get their jobs back, turning to Fort Lauderdale labor attorney Gene Gibbons, the Washington Post reports.
Gibbons, who represents officers in job appeals on behalf of police unions across Florida, has won reinstatement for more than 22 fired officers, often returning them to work over the objections of police chiefs who say they are unfit for duty. A former cop, Gibbons has prevailed by finding the weak point in a department’s case, no matter how severe the alleged misconduct. He capitalizes on the mistakes of police officials, attacking sloppy investigations and hammering departments over missed deadlines. “The city gives me ammunition to win,” said Gibbons, 47. In May, Gibbons persuaded an arbitrator to order Rodriguez’s return to the Miami police force. “He’s not fit to be a cop,” said Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes of Rodriguez. “How could we face the victim’s family if we didn’t fire him?” The work of labor lawyers like Gibbons helps explain why hundreds of officers nationwide have won back jobs through arbitration. The Post has reported that since 2006, police chiefs at 37 of the nation’s largest police departments have been forced to rehire more than 450 officers, nearly a quarter of the officers they have fired for misconduct.