Fired Mac police officer reinstated after arbitration
The decision found the city did not have cause to fire Heidt and reinstated him with backpay and benefits dating back to June 2013, when he lost his job. The arbitrator's decision is final.
In his decision, Fitzsimmon found the quality of the video of the incident Heidt allegedly lied about in question. He also found the promptness of when Heidt was fired following the original incident in question. Also, the arbitrator found questions of Heidt's credibility unwarranted, saying that there was no evidence of Heidt lying.
City attorney Candace Haines said she was "extremely disappointed with the decision."
Interim Chief Matt Scales said the city and the department would comply with the arbitrator's order to reinstate Heidt.
"The decision in this arbitration will not weaken or change our mission to protect and serve our community and we expect all of our staff to continue to treat our citizens and employees with respect and integrity," Scales said. "That includes ensuring that Officer Heidt is given the tools and opportunity to succeed in this reinstatement."
Ron Noble, chief of McMinnville Police at the time, fired Heidt in June 2013 for lying about his use of force during a 2010 incident in which Heidt severely beat a bystander during a drunk driving stop.
Hipolito Aranda had been riding in a car with a woman accused of driving under the influence. Aranda stood beside the vehicle when Heidt threw him to the ground and began pummeling him. Aranda suffered two broken ribs and a broken elbow. Aranda was charged with resisting arrest but was acquited at trial.
Heidt was accused of lying during the initial use of force investigation by the department. The first investigation sided with Heidt and found his use of force reasonable, there being no video footage at the time. However, Heidt's version of events differed from those seen on video footage that later surfaced after Aranda brought suit against the department in federal court.
The second investigation in February 2013 by the department into the incident, aided by the video footage, found that Heidt's use of force excessive. It also found inconsistencies between Heidt's report and the video footage and radio traffic.
Fitzsimmons questioned the quality of the video footage in his decision, saying he was unable "to discern all of the allegedly 'dramatic differences' between the Grievant's (Heidt's) report and what the videos reveal."
The arbitrator's finding says that Heidt suffered a hand injury from his encounter, which prevented him from typing up a report about the incident sooner. Heidt said he could not remember which version of the film he watched of the incident when filed the report, whether it was the truncated one or the full version that later came to light.
The city settled with Aranda for $295,000 in June 2013.
This was not the only incident that the 16-year veteran had been involved in. In February 2012, Heidt was involved in an off-duty drunken bar room brawl in Seaside.
After consuming an estimated 12 or 13 drinks at various bars over the course of the evening, Heidt attacked a smaller, lighter, disabled man and flung him across the dance floor. The club's bouncer removed Heidt from the bar and afterward the man's friends confronted Heidt in the parking lot.
Later that night Heidt attempted to break into a Seaside residence that in his drunken stupor he had mistaken for one he was staying in. Seaside Police responded to a 911 call by the resident and took him into custody after he fell over a picket fence during questioning. Police found his blood alcohol level to be .24, three times the level of presumed intoxication in Oregon.
For the Seaside incident, Heidt was demoted from sergeant and disciplined. His wife, who was also a police department employee, was fired by Noble in spring 2012 for insubordination after attempting to rally union support in defense of Heidt.
Heidt filed a tort claim notice with the city in which he argued that in reality, he was fired in retaliation for a tort claim notice filed earlier by his wife, Nicole.
The notice gives him two years from the date he was fired in which to file a lawsuit. In a lawsuit he would be free to seek damages.
Heidt, a McMinnville High graduate, joined the force in 1997. He had been promoted to sergeant in 2009.