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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011 08:31 am

Fired police detective reinstated

An arbitrator has ordered Paul Carpenter reinstated to his position as a Springfield police officer.

Under the decision released today by arbitrator Jeanne Vonhof, Carpenter, who was fired in 2006, is due back pay and benefits, less a 30-day suspension, according to Ron Stone, attorney for the Police Benevolent and Protective Association Unit 5, the union that represents city police officers.

“He’s excited to return (to the force),” Stone said. “He thinks it’s the best job on the planet.”

Carpenter, who had been a detective on the city’s now-dismantled major case squad, could not be reached for comment. Mayor Mike Houston said that he had received an email about the decision but had not had a chance to review it.

It’s unclear just how much the city will be required to pay the detective who had worked for the city for 13 years before he was terminated. Stone said that the arbitrator has retained jurisdiction over the amount due Carpenter in the event that the city and he cannot reach an agreement.

Carpenter and his partner Jim Graham, an officer for 14 years, were fired after the city requested and got an investigation into alleged wrongdoing on the force by Illinois State Police. The 2,300-page report has not been made public, but the officers broke a number of department rules, according to a leaked summary, and were not properly supervised.

“It’s a little bit of vindication for me, on a tiny scale,” said Graham, who lost his arbitration case and a subsequent court appeal not on the substance but because his firing had not been appealed to then Mayor Tim Davlin, as specified by the police union contract. “There was no cause to fire me, and there was no cause to fire him. We were both kind of lumped in together. We were good cops.”

Cracks in the case against Carpenter appeared in 2008, when a judge dismissed criminal charges of wire fraud and official misconduct filed shortly before his termination. Last year, a federal jury rejected claims by Larry Washington, a suspected drug dealer arrested by Graham and Carpenter, that the officers lied to get a search warrant for his house and falsely arrested him in 2005. Washington contended that police planted a half-kilogram of cocaine in his residence, but a federal jury deliberated one hour before finding in favor of the detectives at the conclusion of a six-day trial.

Stone said he believes that the Vonhof overturned his client’s termination “because I think the arbitrator concluded, as we argued, that Detective Carpenter was fired as much for the adverse publicity that was splashed across the pages (of newspapers) as anything.”

Stone said that an allegation that Carpenter had not properly disposed of a gun taken from someone to prevent that person from being prosecuted was disproven during arbitration proceedings. In fact, Stone said, Carpenter had booked the weapon into evidence, written a report and notified dispatchers as well as federal authorities.

Carpenter had also allegedly failed to get authorization for an electronic overhear Stone said, but in fact had received authorization from a federal prosecutor.

The criminal charges dismissed in 2008 stemmed from an incident in which Carpenter was alleged to have faxed an inaccurate verification of community service to the probation officer of an informant who had helped police and was supposed to have performed work at St. John's Breadline. The arbitrator did  conclude that Carpenter's contact with a St. John’s supervisor had been inappropriate, and that was the basis for the 30-day suspension, Stone said.. 

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

 Click here to see the arbitration decision.

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