It’s not easy to fire a police officer in Stark County. Consider this:

• A twice-fired Jackson Township patrolman was twice reinstated by a third-party arbitrator. He wound up resigning March 28 in exchange for $5,500 as part of a settlement after he showed up drunk to testify in court.

• Jackson Township trustees fired a different officer in 2007 after he pushed, threatened and struck his wife in front of her co-workers. He was brought back under a last-chance agreement.

• Canton Police Officer Daniel Harless lost his job last year after a highly publicized police cruiser video captured him threatening to execute a carry concealed permit owner during a 2011 traffic stop. He won his job back through an arbitrator.

Harless’ reinstatement and Canton’s subsequent appeal to overturn the arbitrator’s decision prompted The Repository to examine the role of arbitrators — billed as nonpartisan, impartial referees — in cases where a police officer has been fired.

Of all 13 arbitration cases, perhaps the decision with the most public outcry was the reinstatement of Officer Harless to the Canton Police Department. Harless’ firing garnered national attention after Ohioans for Concealed Carry posted online the video of the 2011 traffic stop where Harless is seen berating a Brewster man upon learning the man had a pistol, which he was licensed to carry.

“I tell you what I should’ve done,” Harless told the driver. “As soon as I felt your gun I should’ve took two steps back, pulled my Glock 40 and just put 10 bullets in your ass and let you drop. And I wouldn’t of lost any sleep.”

Arbitrator Harry Graham found the 15-year veteran’s conduct defensible because Harless had been patrolling a high-crime area and had been mentally distressed due to a fight he had with an arrestee eight years earlier.

Graham also found the city had given less severe discipline to other officers who verbally abused or physically mistreated prisoners. Harless has said that the most severe punishment he believes he should have received was a written reprimand for cursing at the driver.

The decision was the fifth time in the past 10 years that an arbitrator had sided against the city and reinstated an officer. Canton officials say they don’t know if the city has ever won an arbitration case involving a fired police officer seeking to return to the force. They blame the string of losses on flaws in how arbitrators are selected to hear the disputes.

In most cases, the process to select an arbitrator follows this tract:

The employer and union representatives get a list of up to seven potential arbitrators from an arbitration service, such as the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, a governmental agency, or the American Arbitration Association, a nonprofit organization. The agencies decide which names to provide based on the geographic and expertise preferences of the two sides. Nearly 300 Ohio arbitrators are registered with the FMCS and AAA, although some names appear on both rosters.

Once they get the list, the employer and the union take turns eliminating names. The last arbitrator standing is hired and the two sides agree to consider the arbitrator’s decision final and binding.

Kristen Bates Aylward, deputy chief counsel for the Canton City Law Department, said the alternate striking of the names off the list still doesn’t eliminate the need for arbitrators to keep their more frequent customers happy.

She said arbitrators whose incomes rely on getting picked to hear a case often don’t want to rule against the unions because they don’t want to give the unions a reason not to pick them again in the future.

“The most powerful lobbies are the police and fire unions,” she said. “If (arbitrators) do anything to make them mad, they blackball them.”

Attorney Leslie Kuntz of Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty believes an arbitrator’s inclination to side with the union has less to do with the selection process — “I know as many of these arbitrators as they do” — but more to do with an arbitrator’s reluctance to take a gun out of an officer’s hand.

“They call (firing an officer) the death penalty of employment law ... because once they’re fired, they will probably never get another job (in law enforcement),” said Kuntz, a labor attorney since 1986 who represents Jackson Township trustees as well as most county government offices and school districts. “It’s very difficult to get a termination case to stick on an employee with more than 10 years of seniority.”

In the three Stark County cases where an arbitrator upheld a police officer’s firing, the officer with the longest tenure had been at the department for five years.

Goldberg said that the firing of any employee — not just law-enforcement officers — is a serious concern because the decision affects their livelihood and their family. But he said it’s not the only concern to be weighed. The public’s trust in the people sworn to protect them is another consideration, he said. [LOFUCKINGL - KCC]
Much more at link explaining the entire process.

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Here is the video of the Harless confrontation. Officer Harless threatens to "lump up" a woman if he sees her again and threatens to execute a man carrying concealed legally with a CCW permit.

The whole video is recommended but starting at the 6:00 minute mark will give you a good idea of the type of people being allowed back onto the police force.