According to the new report released Thursday by the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor, two of every three police officers fired returned to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in about five and a half years primarily because independent arbitrators thought the firing was an excessive punishment for the officer's misconduct – especially in comparison with past decisions. The audit says failures to meet deadlines, follow procedures, and provide adequate evidence were also factors a termination was overturned.
The ODCA audit showed 37 terminated D.C. police officers have been reinstated - and 36 of them have received a portion of the millions in back pay. According to the audit, the average cost per reinstatement after taxes ranged between $374,000 and $520,000.
According to the ODCA, the audit was prompted by an earlier audit of settlements paid by the District that showed millions in back pay awarded to ten officers over an 18-month period. Those officers were fired and then got their jobs back by appealing the terminations, ODCA says
"What we found is consistent with concerns raised by the Police Reform Commission," said D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson in a statement released Thursday. "We're recommending legislation to put elected officials in the driver's seat on what is and is not behavior that merits termination from MPD."
READ THE FULL REPORT: (MOBILE USERS CLICK HERE)
According to the audit, as of September 2022, 15 of the 37 reinstated officers reviewed were employed at D.C.'s police department - including three who were terminated for misconduct that ODCA classified as a "threat to safety."
ODCA says - on average - the reinstatement cases they reviewed lasted almost eight years. D.C. police and the Fraternal Order of Police - who ODCA says appealed most of the termination cases - had no time limit to move forward on cases.
The audit says in most cases it took an average of nearly six years to complete the first step of an appeal.
According to the audit - threat to safety cases included:
- Two officers who failed to make an arrest under domestic violence statutes.
- An officer who was terminated three separate times, two prior to the audit's scope, and had been arrested for assault with a dangerous weapon.
- An officer who had been found guilty in D.C. Superior Court for simple assault.
Reinstatement cases described as "administrative" included:
- An officer who demanded free passage on an Amtrak train from Baltimore to New York City.
- A married couple, both officers, who falsified home addresses in order to enroll children in a D.C. public charter school
ODCA’s audit suggested several recommendations including codifying the table of penalties, time limits on referring new cases for arbitration and developing a written criteria for whether to appeal termination cases.
MPD released the following statement about the audit:
"The Metropolitan Police Department appreciates the work of the DC Auditor analyzing personnel reinstatements. MPD is concerned about the reinstatement of any member terminated for misconduct and the impact on public safety and trust. Recent legislation has addressed some of our long standing concerns about ambiguous laws related to discipline and an arbitration system that has contributed to the return of unsuitable police officers. The audit highlights this problem and the challenges faced by MPD. The Department supports the recommendations and will work with our partners to implement them."
The D.C. Police Union also released the below statement on the audit: (MOBILE USERS CLICK HERE)