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It took Portland, Ore., almost $1 million in legal fees, efforts by two mayors and a police chief, and years of battle with the police union to defend the firing of Officer Ron Frashour — only to have to bring him back. Today, the veteran white officer, who shot an unarmed Black man in the back a decade ago, is still on the force.

In 2017, Zachary Rosen, a white officer in Columbus, Ohio, kicked an armed Black suspect on the ground as another officer tried to handcuff him. Officer Rosen was eventually fired for using “unreasonable” force.

Backed by his union, he appealed to an arbitrator. Under the contract, the Columbus Police Department needed to prove that it had “just cause” to fire him. Arbitrators typically consider a set of questions, including: Was the officer disciplined similarly to other department officers who behaved similarly? And did the officer receive warnings to correct poor behavior before being fired?

More than a dozen current and former chiefs told The Times they were troubled that an arbitrator or review panel decided whether a fired police officer remained off the force. Some felt chained to past practices and unable to fire officers for improper behavior if prior chiefs had set more tolerant standards.

“It looks bad,” said Gil Kerlikowske, a former police chief in Seattle and three other cities. “The department has fired someone. And then this person is back.”


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