Pender Wins In ArbitrationRandall Holcombe • Thursday March 18, 2010 9:59 AM PDT •
Last week I wrote about Rachel Hoffman’s death as she was being used in a sting operation by the Tallahassee Police Department to try to arrest two men on drug charges. As I noted last week, the sting operation was more successful than the TPD had originally envisioned, and rather than drug convictions, the two men were convicted of the more serious charge of murder. The unfortunate side effect was that the murder charges came about because they killed Rachel Hoffman.
I also noted last week that Hoffman’s family filed a civil suit against the City of Tallahassee for damages in this case. Meanwhile, Ryan Pender, the only TPD officer who lost his job as a result of the case, had appealed his firing and the appeal was being heard by an arbitrator. The arbitrator has ruled that Pender was unjustly fired, so should be reinstated, and be given back pay and benefits.
Police Chief Dennis Jones stands by his original decision to fire Pender, and is looking into whether the arbitration ruling should be appealed, or whether the TPD should abide by the ruling and reemploy Pender.
One commenter on my earlier post, “Federalist,” suggested that the union that defended Pender should be liable for any civil damages, not the city. That’s an interesting thought. Of course, I am well aware that anybody can sue anybody else for civil damages, and the Hoffman family chose to sue the city, not the police union. But Police Chief Jones, representing the city, says Pender’s actions were the cause of Rachel’s death, and that he did not follow city policy. Meanwhile, the union defends Pender’s behavior. In a moral (if not legal) sense, shouldn’t this make the union more responsible than the city for any damages resulting from Pender’s actions?