Once-praised San Antonio police officer Michael Garza later was fired for drinking on duty, failing to seek medical help for a wounded woman, and chasing down and shooting an unarmed suspect, the Washington Post reports. He became one of the hundreds of fired officers across the nation who have been rehired after arbitrators overturned police chiefs’ decisions. More than 451 fired officers have been reinstated to 37 of the nation’s largest police departments since 2006. San Antonio has rehired 31 officers.
The Post takes a close look at Garza’s case, detailing the events that cost Garza his job and the dilemma police departments often face when forced to rehire officers they don’t want. Some police chiefs reluctantly return guns and patrol duties to officers they fired. Others do what San Antonio’s chief did with Garza: relegating him to administrative duties, what the head of the city’s police union calls “the rubber gun squad.” “They’re basically taking paper clips off paper, filing paperwork or making copies for somebody,” police union president Mike Helle said. Of Garza, he said, “He might as well be a clerk. You took a good cop that made a lot of good cases and you just put him on a bookshelf. Are you really even a cop anymore at that point?” Top San Antonio officials insist that Garza should remain off the streets.