August 5, 2016
A former Abilene police officer accused of taking marijuana out of evidence and violating department policy will be reinstated by order of an independent hearing examiner.
Police Chief Stan Standridge said in a statement that the city will "abide by the decision and will move forward accordingly." There have been no talks between the two parties yet as the decision was handed down Friday.
Standridge fired Arthur Jefferson on March 21 based on accusations the officer tampered with marijuana evidence and violated the department's "truthfulness" policy.
Jefferson, who was a police academy instructor at the time of his termination, appealed his firing to an independent hearing examiner. The hearing was held July 6 and 7, with three witnesses testifying.
William Basedow, arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association, oversaw the hearing.
John Snider, Jefferson's attorney through the Texas Municipal Police Association, said Jefferson "looks forward to returning to the job he loves — serving and protecting" Abilenians.
"The hearing examiner noted that Arthur Jefferson testified in his own defense; he had served in the police department for 12 years without discipline; and that he had honorably retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years," Snider wrote in an email. "As I expected, the hearing examiner cleared Arthur Jefferson of the 'tampering with evidence' charge and the 'untruthfulness' charge. The hearing examiner found that, by his own admission, Arthur Jefferson violated only an administrative policy when he inquired about someone who had been given access to his young child."
Snider also said Basedow reviewed discipline issued to other Abilene police officers who had conducted similar license plate checks on mobile computer units and concluded the appropriate penalty was a five-day suspension. He said he and Jefferson are waiting to hear from the city about when Jefferson will return and how the suspension will be implemented.
The Civil Service Act requires payment of all back pay and benefits in this situation, including those related to seniority and retirement, Snider said.
City and police officials argued during the hearing that Jefferson checked out an unknown amount of marijuana from the evidence room on Sept. 3, 2009, and never returned it. They could find no record or person to validate Jefferson's claim that it was returned.
Officials also alleged that Jefferson took the marijuana home, based on photos of an evidence envelope and clear plastic bags containing what appears to be marijuana that his ex-girlfriend recently showed police officials.
Jefferson said at the appeal that he returned the marijuana to the evidence room one to two weeks later, during which time it was secured in a desk drawer. He said he removed it from evidence to show a cadet who had never seen or smelled marijuana.
Police also claimed that Jefferson violated the law and departmental policy by running the license plate number of his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend through his mobile computer unit while on duty.