Two police officers who were acquitted of criminal charges in a beating death may not get their jobs back. In total, three men were fired from a West Coast police department for the death. One of the men was not involved in the trial. Still, all three were dismissed from their former jobs. All three men had made appeals to be reinstated after they were fired. One man has also made an informal wrongful termination claim, though it does not appear that a civil case has been initiated.
City council members in the town have been threatened with recall if they reinstate the officers. Violent protests have even broken out because of the officers’ acquittal. The city council will provide the final decision in the employment matter. The officers have a right to consult an independent arbitrator. That entity will submit a report to the council for consideration.
The men may still face criminal charges from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for potential violation of the decedent’s constitutional rights. The men are accused of beating a homeless man to death in 2011. Statements from the department police chief indicate that the men were not fired because of the criminal proceedings. That man said he had used other criteria to terminate their employment. He also intends to ‘vigorously defend’ his decision.
Even though the men were acquitted in the case, they still lost their jobs. The police chief did not explain in detail why the department had a legitimate cause for termination. Employees should not be subject to discrimination simply because they were involved in a criminal trial. Those who have been acquitted in a criminal trial should enjoy employment protection. Qualified Florida employment attorneys may be able to help workers who think they were fired without a legitimate cause for termination.
Source: Daily Titan, “Police chief will not rehire officers involved in Kelly Thomas beating, council will make final decision in appeal” Samuel Mountjoy, Jan. 22, 2014