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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Police Set To Appeal Cop's Reinstatement

LR police set to appeal officer’s reinstatement
The Democrat-Gazette by C.S. Murphy - December 15, 2010

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Little Rock Police Department leaders say they will appeal last month’s Civil Service Commission ruling that reinstated an officer who had been fired after being caught on camera using a racial slur. “We believe the right decision was made in terminating officer [David] Edgmon’s employment,” police spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings said Tuesday. Chief Deputy City Attorney Bill Mann said Tuesday he was notified by e-mail on Dec. 8 that police “management” wanted to appeal the reinstatement. Private attorney Jess Sweere will represent the Police Department in the matter because the city attorney’s office represents the commission, Mann explained. In a Nov. 18 decision, the commission decided 3-2 to give Edgmon his job back. In reversing his dismissal, commissioners handed him a 30-day suspension. “We respect the Civil Service Commission’s decision, but we also have a right to appeal that decision, just as an officer can appeal the decision of the commission,”Hastings said. “Chief [Stuart] Thomas and City Manager Bruce Moore discussed the issue and believe the appeal is the correct thing to do in this case.”

Sweere, who has been representing the department in Civil Service Commission matters for four years, said such an appeal is unusual. It’s also rare, he said, for the commission to overturn a termination. Robert Newcomb, Edgmon’s attorney, said his client has returned to work without incident. “He says he hasn’t had one person say anything negative to him since he came back to work,” Newcomb said. Newcomb, who has been representing police and firefighters for more than 30 years, said he can recall only one other time the city appealed a Civil Service Commission decision. In a letter last week, Little Rock Black Police Officers Association President Terrell Vaughn called for the resignation of the three commissioners who voted to reinstate Edgmon. On Tuesday, Vaughn said he was pleased to hear of the appeal but added, “If the civil service commission had done their job in the beginning, we wouldn’t be discussing the issue.” Edgmon, 24, was fired in August for conduct unbecoming an officer, being intoxicated in public and for engaging in activities that “could result in the justified criticism” of the officer and the Police Department. Thomas launched an internal investigation after Edgmon was caught on amateur video in March using the term “jigaboo” to a group of young black men in the River Market. On the video, recorded by a group called Ill Legal Productions, Edgmon flashes his police badge after one of the men asks to see it. It’s unclear whether Edgmon, who is not in uniform, mentioned beforehand that he was a police officer. In subsequent comments to the men, Edgmon uses the racial slur once. At the November commission hearing, Edgmon testified that he didn't know the word “jigaboo” was a racial slur but conceded that he knew the term was derogatory. Overcome with emotion more than once, Edgmon told the commissioners that the incident and his termination prompted him to make changes in his life, spending more time with his family and refraining from drinking to excess.

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