"Conduct was defensible:" Arbitrator overturns firing of Canton policeman who threatened to execute concealed carry licensee

by Chad D. Baus

The Canton Repository is reporting that notorious Canton Police Officer Daniel Harless, who was fired after being caught on his own police dash cam video in June 2011 verbally assaulting a concealed carry license holder and threatening to "execute" him, is one step away from winning back his job.

From the article:

Fired police officer Daniel Harless could get his job back if he gets medical clearance to return to work.

An arbitrator hearing Harless' appeal ruled in the former patrolman’s favor. The 15-page ruling was dated Saturday and released by the city Wednesday.

Harless' attorney indicated his client is unlikely to seek his old job, at least for now. He has been receiving workers' compensation and has applied for a disability retirement pension.

But Harless now has the right to be back on the job, according to arbitrator Harry Graham.

"Return to active service, if ever, is to be determined by competent medical authority," wrote Graham, an arbitrator since 1972 and a retired professor of industrial relations at Cleveland State University.

The internal affairs division of the Police Department had investigated three traffic stops involving Harless, each one filmed by a cruiser dash camera. Investigators said the officer had violated rules for conduct, cooperation with the public and handling persons.

Harless was accused of violating police department rules during the June 8, 2011 traffic stop during which police cruiser video shows Harless berating and threatening a man pulled over around 1:30 a.m. on Newton Avenue NW.

In the dash cam video, the officer can be heard unleashing a profanity-laced tirade, yelling, "I should blast you in the mouth right now...I'm so close to caving in your head," and "you're just a stupid human being!" He continued to berate the license-holder, shouting, "You want me to pull mine and stick it to your head?" "People like you don't deserve to f#$%*@g move throughout public. Period!"

After the June cruiser video was posted on the Internet, it went viral. Soon, other videos turned up, revealing a long pattern of deplorable behavior.

The Repository uncovered a video from another incident, in which Harless threatened to send the suspects "to the grave" if they moved, adding, "I will shoot you in the face and I'll go to sleep tonight."

In a third dash cam video uncovered by Cleveland's ABC affiliate, Harless can be heard engaging in yet another profanity-laced tirade, saying, "If you scratch your balls wrong, I'm going to pull my gun and I am going to shoot you."

Again, from the article:

"Given the circumstances of that night and the mental status of (Harless), it must be concluded his conduct was defensible," Graham wrote, referring to the Newton Avenue stop. "The employer lacked just cause to discharge him."

Yes, you read that right. According to the arbitrator, "Harless' "conduct was defensible."

What's more, according to the article, the arbitrator also said that prior to the firing, Harless, a 15-year department veteran, had a good record.

A "good record," despite the fact that The Repository has uncovered numerous complaints against Officer Harless dating back to 2000.

At the arbitration hearing, the city noted Harless has betrayed little remorse for his actions. He even failed to appear at his own disciplinary hearing. His union attorney tried to excuse Harless' absence, stating that he was too mentally "disabled" to attend. He also failed to attend a rescheduled hearing in December. Yet despite all this, Harless was supposedly competent enough to testify at a murder trial on November 29, in which the accused was ultimately convicted.

The city argued the post-traumatic stress disorder and depression do not excuse officer's behavior. Indeed. If he is well enough to testify in a murder trial, in which the defendant was ultimately convicted, he was certainly well enough to show up to his hearing a week later.

If Harless continues to claim that he is mentally disabled by PTSD, one wonders how long it will take for the convicted killer's attorney to file an appeal based on Harless' self-admitted incompetence and possibly get his client's conviction overturned.

If, on the other hand, Harless is given a clean bill of health and returned to duty, there is little doubt based on his decade-long track record that his abusive behavior will continue.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

Related Article:
Ohio CHL-holder files civil rights suit against Canton officer who threatened to execute him

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