Shayne Miller will be back next week among the ranks of the Bradford City Police.

Miller was terminated May 26, 2017, after being charged for allegedly taking meat from Walmart without paying when he was off duty and out of uniform. The Fraternal Order of Police filed a grievance on his behalf, and last week, the arbitrator ordered Miller be reinstated — without back pay.

The arbitrator, James M. Darby, said that while he couldn’t find that Miller had broken the law, he did say that Miller should have been more cognizant of his public face as a role model and acted with better judgment.

“The city did not have just cause to terminate (Miller),” Darby wrote. “He shall be reinstated to his former position with his seniority unimpaired upon satisfying all of the requisite fitness for duty conditions of employment as a city policeman. The reinstatement shall be without back pay.”

The ruling gives a detailed explanation of the allegations against Miller, which happened when he used a self-checkout at Walmart and the meat didn’t scan properly on two occasions. Miller was acquitted of any criminal wrongdoing in a hearing before District Judge Bill Todd in September 2017.

Darby said he could not conclude that Miller committed a crime or lied, but admonished Miller, “a member of law enforcement, (who) placed himself in the same position on two separate occasions where his conduct exposed him and the city to disrepute and embarrassment.”

According to the findings in the report, the register had notified Miller that his item hadn’t scanned, but he said he hadn’t paid attention to the notice as he was prompted to hit “OK” and continue with his purchase.

“While one can understand that a typical store customer might be nonchalant or careless when using the self-checkout register, as a police officer, (Miller) must be held to a higher standard. He simply could not run the risk of making a conventional shopper’s mistake and be charged with retail theft,” Darby wrote. “This was not taking place in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. It occurred in a suburban township where the Walmart staff knew (Miller) — in his plain clothes — was a police officer.”

Darby continued, saying Miller should have asked for help. “At a minimum, (Miller) should have been attentive to his situation and cognizant of his position as a policeman/role model.”

Because he did not, Darby stated, “it would be inappropriate to reward” him for failing to conduct himself in a manner that upholds the highest standards of respect, the ruling read.

In the ruling, Darby also condemned Walmart’s self-checkout system. He indicated that this case demonstrated that “Walmart’s system for ensuring self-checkout items are properly scanned is utterly ineffective. Unlike other stores’ self-checkout registers that will ‘freeze,’ emit a loud audible sound and summon a store employee to engage the customer when an item that has not been properly scanned is placed in a bag, the registers at Walmart simply provide a small-sized notice on the screen that the item must be rescanned.”

The arbitrator wrote that he was upholding part of the grievance by awarding Miller his job back, but denying it in part by declining back pay. While Darby said the city had no cause to fire Miller, he acknowledged that the city “awarded (Miller’s) full due process rights” during the process.

On Friday, when contacted for comment on behalf of the city, Mayor Tom Riel said, “The decision speaks for itself. It was a split decision but slightly more so in the city’s favor in that there was no back pay or financial settlement.”

Police Chief Chris Lucco declined comment.

Speaking on behalf of Miller was his attorney, John Mizner of Erie.

“Shayne Miller is very pleased, but not surprised by the arbitrator’s decision to reinstate him to the City of Bradford police force,” Mizner said. “He very much looks forward to returning to the force next Tuesday and serving the people of Bradford.”

The attorney said the arbitrator had been the fourth person who ruled that Miller had not committed a crime. “We’re glad that part is finally resolved.”

And the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Erie, will continue, Mizner said. He added that Miller is asking to amend his complaint, as the reinstatement he had sought was granted by the arbitrator.

“He will continue to pursue there the compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees related to the violation of his civil rights in the manner in which the termination was carried out,” the attorney said. “We will proceed under the due process claims and see if we can recover the back pay as damages for those violations.”

Mizner said the arbitrator’s focus was the union contract, which is “limited to certain issues and certain remedies. What we’re doing in federal court is separate and distinct from that.”

Original article by: Marcie Schellhammer - Email