The ruling involved a Kitsap County sheriff's deputy who, after an internal investigation, was fired for failing to work his cases and then, as The Seattle Times reported, lying to his supervisors and investigators about it.
The court, however, in a 5-3 decision, came down in favor of the arbitrator who said the sheriff's department was being too harsh in punishing the deputy with termination and concluded that honesty was not a critical function of the job. And so the cop with reinstated.
Spokane state Rep. Kevin Parker is looking to change that. The Republican lawmaker is writing a bill that would not allow arbitrators to change the discipline meted out by sheriff's and police chiefs when an officer has been found to have lied or broken the law.
Parker told us yesterday that he is drafting the bill on behalf of all 39 county sheriff's in Washington who want more disciplinary control over rogue cops who commit a crime or lie while on duty.
"If the officer lies and there's a preponderance of evidence of that, than that officer could be fired, and that couldn't be overturned by an arbitrator," said Parker.
Asked how preponderant might that evidence have to be, Parker replied, "That's a good question. I'm meeting with the police union tomorrow and I'll ask them that."
Five years ago, the Seattle P-I discovered just how rare it is for a police officer to lose his badge for lying. Following a review ofinternal police documents in Seattle and other Washington agencies, the paper found that in the five years ending July 2007, "just 13 police officers statewide had been terminated and disqualified to serve again as police officers in Washington state because of lying, including the case of a Seattle officer cheating on an exam."
The story goes on:
Yet the P-I found more than two dozen other cases in which officers were alleged to have misled supervisors, misstated important facts or fabricated information in fieldwork, internal investigations and court cases without being fired.
Among them, a Tacoma officer accused of falsifying sick-leave reports in 2004; a Federal Way officer who allegedly tried to cover up improperly throwing away drug evidence in 2002; and a King County sergeant accused of making "misleading statements" about her alleged pressuring of a subordinate regarding a public sex arrest case.
Rep. Parker, meanwhile, is calling his proposed legislation the "Integrity First Bill," a measure that he is basically carrying on behalf of Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who says he's been forced to retain several lying and law-breaking cops in his department.
"The citizens of this state, quite frankly, demand and expect that police officers don't lie," Knezovich told MyNorthwest.com. "It's always been public doctrine."
Parker said he expects to introduce the bill within the next week or two.