Employment Law Daily Pointing loaded gun at fellow police officer justified termination
Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pointing loaded gun at fellow police officer justified termination

A police officer who entered a darkened squad room at his headquarters and pointed his gun at a another was properly terminated, an arbitrator ruled. Wanting to demonstrate his firearm’s laser pointer to whoever was in the room, he pointed the loaded gun, with the laser turned on. The laser light rested on the leg, abdomen, and groin of another officer. After telling the other officer that it “was not a big deal,” he left the room. A couple of days later, the officer who had the gun pointed at him and a second officer who witnessed the event met the first officer at a restaurant bar, ostensibly to give the first officer an opportunity to explain himself and to apologize. When he failed to do either, they reported the incident to a supervisor, who launched an investigation, which resulted in the first officer being terminated. The first officer then filed a grievance contesting the termination. At the hearing, the officer who was terminated and the two officers in the room at the time of the incident offered differing versions of events. The terminated officer testified that he did not see the other officers in the room, that the placement of the laser pointer on the other officer was accidental, and that he removed the laser pointer from the other officer’s body as soon as he realized his mistake, which meant that the laser pointer was on the other officer’s body for 5-7 seconds. The other two officers, however, testified that he guided the laser pointer over the other officer’s body for 15-20 seconds and that, upon realizing that a third officer was in the room, he said to the third officer, “You did not see anything. Prove it.” The arbitrator chose to believe the other two officers, noting that they had no reason to lie about what happened. In any event, he said, even 5-7 seconds was a significant amount of time to point a loaded weapon at a co-worker. His conduct clearly violated the employer’s safety rules. Understandably, such an incident would also cause the other officers to lose confidence and trust in the first officer to carry out his duties safely and effectively. Although the first officer had a long service record with no discipline, this incident was so egregious that the employer was justified in terminating him without progressive discipline. Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc. (Local No. 2, Police Officers) and City of Rosemount. April 23, 2016. Andrew M. Roberts, Arbitrator.

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