Since 2006, the nation’s largest police departments have fired at least 1,881 officers for misconduct that betrayed the public’s trust, from cheating on overtime to unjustified shootings. But The Washington Post has found that departments have been forced to reinstate more than 450 officers after appeals required by union contracts.
Most of the officers regained their jobs when police chiefs were overruled by arbitrators, typically lawyers hired to review the process. In many cases, the underlying misconduct was undisputed, but arbitrators often concluded that the firings were unjustified because departments had been too harsh, missed deadlines, lacked sufficient evidence or failed to interview witnesses.
A San Antonio police officer caught on a dash cam challenging a handcuffed man to fight him for the chance to be released was reinstated in February. In the District, an officer convicted of sexually abusing a young woman in his patrol car was ordered returned to the force in 2015. And in Boston, an officer was returned to work in 2012 despite being accused of lying, drunkenness and driving a suspected gunman from the scene of a nightclub killing.
The chiefs say the appeals process leaves little margin for error. Yet police agencies sometimes sabotage their own attempts to shed troubled officers by making procedural mistakes. The result is that police chiefs have booted hundreds of officers they have deemed unfit to be in their ranks, only to be compelled to take them back and return them to the streets with guns and badges.
THE EIGHT-YEAR FIRING
In the District, the Metropolitan Police Department fired officer Michael Blaise Sugg-Edwards after he was convicted of misdemeanor sex abuse over an incident with a teenager in his police car.
Eight years later, the department is still fighting to keep the 35-year-old off the force after the agency in 2015 was ordered to rehire him.
Sugg-Edwards, who was born and raised in the District, joined the department in 2005. He was nominated to be rookie officer of the year and to receive an achievement medal for stopping an armed rape.
On Nov. 16, 2007, Sugg-Edwards was on patrol when he saw a 19-year-old woman dressed all in white walking alone near Love, a now-closed warehouse nightclub off New York Avenue in Northeast, court records show.
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