One of the biggest issues facing meaningful police reform is the arbitration process. An officer could be fired for being a piece of shit but an arbitrator could say, “well, he wasn’t that shitty,” and order the officer to be re-hired. In New Hampshire, that exact situation is playing out but surprisingly, the local police chief is fighting back.
CNN reports that Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano is refusing an arbitrator’s order to reinstate former Officer Aaron Brown. In 2018, the Manchester Police Department launched an investigation into Brown after receiving a complaint and found he had sent “text messages that included extremely disturbing racist remarks,” and others “which he claimed to have intentionally damaged property while executing search warrants.”
While a criminal investigation didn’t have enough evidence to charge him with property damage, the racist texts were enough to get Brown fired in April 2018 when the investigation concluded. The Manchester Police Patrolman Association filed a grievance over Brown’s firing and an arbitration hearing was set in August of last year.
The arbitrator did not find enough evidence that Brown had intentionally damaged property, a statement from the department said.
“However, the arbitrator ruled that Brown’s racist comments were egregious and had no place in law enforcement and that the Manchester Police Department had properly applied a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to racist conduct,” the Manchester Police statement said. “Nevertheless, the arbitrator determined that Brown should not have been fired, but rather simply suspended for 30 days. The ruling called for Brown to receive his job back with back pay, minus the 30 day suspension.”
In their statement, police said, “once the case goes to an arbitrator it is binding” and even though they are “forced to follow the arbitrator’s decision,” Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano is refusing to reinstate Brown.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig has stood by Capano’s position and feels that the arbitrator made the wrong move. “I believe the arbitrator made a serious error by failing to recognize Brown’s racism and significant abuse of authority in reversing his termination,” Craig said. “Bad cops are bad for our police department, our residents, our neighborhoods, and our city.”
The Police Union has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employee Relations Board, asking for Brown to be reinstated to the department. The department told CNN that the case is still pending.
Capano, for his part, has shown no sign of backing down from this fight. “Manchester police officers take pride in the community we serve and the uniform we wear. Aaron Brown’s actions cast a shadow on this agency, but those actions are not representative of this police department as a whole. We will do everything possible to make sure Brown is never in a Manchester Police Uniform again,” Capano said in a police statement.