Arbitrator rejects permanent disciplinary demotion, upholds one year before restored to former position

Grievant was employed as a Lieutenant with the City of Waterloo, IA Police Department. Over twenty years he had risen through the ranks and he had a generally clean disciplinary record.
On the night of June 12, 2016, while off duty he was involved in an incident with another driver. The other driver had cut off grievant’s vehicle, which his wife was driving. The wife followed the other vehicle into a parking lot and grievant approached the other driver. What followed was disputed, but the other driver sustained mild abrasions from a confrontation. A third driver in the lot called 911 and grievant and his wife departed the scene. Grievant’s wife was able to get the license number of the other vehicle.

Two Waterloo police officers responded to the scene, but after learning that their Lieutenant was involved, referred the matter to the County Sheriff’s office for further investigation. The subsequent investigation disclosed that grievant had “called the dispatcher three times, not to report the incident but to determine if a call had been  made, who was being dispatched to the scene of the incident and the identity of the other driver.” Some time later, grievant used his computer access to obtain information on the other driver.

Grievant was charged with assault causing bodily injury, but he was acquitted. Following an internal affairs investigation that had been suspended during the pendency of the criminal proceedings was concluded, the Chief decided grievant should be demoted from the rank of Lieutenant to the rank of police officer with a resulting reduction in salary.

The demotion was grieved and submitted to arbitration before Arbitrator Hugh J Perry.  Arbitrator Perry found cause for discipline, but deemed a permanent demotion excessive. He concluded:

The issue that remains is whether the discipline imposed was appropriate and for just cause in light of the facts and the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. …  The problem with a disciplinary demotion is that it has no term. It could be for a year or a career. What has effectively happened here is the termination of a Lieutenant and his rehire as a Police Officer.  I am inclined to agree with the Union that Grievant’s chances for advancement or regaining any supervisory role in this department are unlikely.  Viewing Grievant’s positive 20 year career with the Waterloo Police Department leads me to conclude that a two rank demotion here is too severe under the circumstances. Grievant’s past record demonstrates that he undid all of that good work in one incident. If corrective discipline has a place, it is here. Grievant’s record demonstrates that he can learn from his mistakes. It also indicates that he can be an effective and able leader and a positive member of the Waterloo Police Department. Rather than a two rank demotion, a more appropriate and effective corrective remedy would be a temporary demotion to a police officer for a period with an appropriate reduction of pay and benefits followed by reinstatement to the rank of Lieutenant.

Accordingly, Arbitrator Perry ordered that grievant’s demotion be limited to a one year period followed by his reinstatement to his position as Lieutenant.  Arbitrator Perry’s award in City of Waterloo and AFSCME Local 1195 can be found here.

Issues arising from disciplinary demotions are also addressed in Disciplinary Demotions- Two Recent Cases and Mayor improperly interfered with discipline of Fire Captain
Source: ADR