Arbitrator decides Indio was wrong to fire officer who was acquitted of rape
An arbitrator ruled that the city of Indio and the Indio Police Department erred in firing an officer who was arrested for rape but later acquitted.
The decision fell on Wednesday, with the arbitrator adding that the officer should be reinstated and be granted more than two years of back pay and benefits. The ruling, obtained by News Channel 3, shows the arbitrator found the city had failed to prove there was just cause in the dismissal.
Statement by the Board of Directors of the Indian Police Officers Association
“Indio’s POA has been made aware of the findings of neutral arbitrator Jan Stiglitz. Due process is important in cases. We hope that the findings and recommendations of a third party who heard live testimony will be convincing in the next steps in this process. “
The case sparked unrest within the Indio Police Department, like earlier this yearMembers of the Indio Police Command Unit have issued a “no confidence” position to Indio Police Chief Mike Washburn and Deputy Chiefs over the decision to fire the officer.
Full Details: Indio Police Command Unit votes against Police Chief; Police chief responds
Former Indio police officer Sergio Ramirez was arrested on August 31, 2016 after being accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman. DNA results from a sexual assault exam revealed Ramirez’s DNA on the woman’s skin, but he maintained the encounter was consensual.
In June 2018, a jury found Ramirez not guilty of forced rape and other charges.
After Ramirez’s acquittal, the Indio Police Department conducted an Internal Affairs (IA) investigation, which led Washburn to make the decision to fire Ramirez. Washburn later said that “a lesser form of punishment would not have been appropriate. He said Ramirez” exhibited poor judgment and lack of impulse control. “
The arbitrator said the city’s case for Ramirez’s dismissal was based on allegations that Ramirez provided false or misleading testimony during the internal affairs investigation, his conduct feeling the effects of alcohol and his resetting the cell phone issued by the ministry.
Indian police sergeant. Leonardo Perafan, who completed a review of Ramirez’s IA investigation in March 2019, said Washburn asked him to change the findings of his IA review.
“Chief Washburn has indicated that he is not satisfied with the conclusions I have reached. He did not believe that Mr. Ramirez could perform the duties of a policeman in the town of Indio, then [the Chief] asked me to change my findings, ”Perafan said.
Perafan testified that after his conversation with Washburn about his March 7 report, “he changed his findings and recommendations in favor of what the Chief and Deputy Chief leaned towards.”
Washburn said he didn’t ask Perafan to draw any specific conclusions. He added that he found a May 7 report from Perafan “unsuitable” with a “narrow focus”. He told Perafan to incorporate Sgt. Marshall’s previous AI report, because “a lot of work had been done by Marshall”.
Perafan said that between his initial report and his revised June 5 report, he had not conducted interviews or read anything that might have caused him to change his findings. He made the changes to satisfy Washburn.
The arbitrator also said there was controversy over a conversation with Perafan during the recess on the second day of the hearing. According to court documents, Washburn initially denied having had a conversation with Perafan, but when asked about that conversation, the boss was “less than cooperative”
Ultimately, the referee’s many rulings included:
- The City has failed to prove that Ramirez was driving under the influence of alcohol, as the Notice of Termination claims.
- Chief Washburn’s contrary conclusions were based on speculation, speculation, and what appears to be the Chief’s predisposition to believe Ramirez was dishonest.
- The City has produced no credible evidence or inferences from any evidence that would support Chief Washburn’s decision to terminate Ramirez’s employment for resetting his ministry-issued cell phone.
- In signing the letter or intent and the letter of termination, Chief Washburn relied on information that was factually inaccurate.
- During his testimony, Chief Washburn admitted that the factual basis for some of his conclusions was unfounded.
- Evidence presented at the hearing also suggests that the Chief’s decision in this case may have been prompted by the embarrassment suffered by the Department which was the product of Ramirez engaging in sexual behavior with him. [the 18-year-old woman]
News Channel 3 has contacted the city of Indio for further comment on the decision. The Indio Police Department said this would be handled by the city as it is a personnel matter.
Stay with News Channel 3 for ongoing updates.