A former Billings police officer who was fired last year for hitting a man in handcuffs wants his job back.
An arbitrator will decide whether Greg Jacobs was wrongfully terminated in April 2005 for what Police Department officials described as "gross misconduct" that violated four department policies.
An arbitration hearing between city representatives, Jacobs and a union lawyer representing Jacobs has been scheduled for July 25, City Attorney Brent Brooks said. The hearing could last two days, and the arbitrator will likely issue a written decision several months later.
At issue is whether the city had cause to fire Jacobs after an internal investigation determined he used excessive force during a disturbance call on Dec. 24, 2004.
"Our position is that (the termination) was done without just cause," said Bob Chatriand, a field representative with the Montana Public Employees Association.
Jacobs is being represented by MPEA attorney Carter Picotte, who said Jacobs wants to be reinstated with back pay and benefits.
"That's what we're asking," Picotte said.
He declined to discuss specifics of the case, but said the city has the burden to prove that there was just cause to fire Jacobs.
Brooks said the city had cause to fire Jacobs, who was disciplined in 2000 with loss of a week's pay for using excessive force against another handcuffed suspect. Jacobs joined the police force in 1998.
"There was justifiable misconduct to fire him," Brooks said.
Jacobs filed an employment grievance against the city after his termination, as provided by the officer's union contract. Because the grievance was not resolved between the city and Jacobs, the matter will be decided by an arbitrator whose decision is binding.
Brooks said there is little recourse for either side to appeal an arbitrator's decision.
In August last year, Jacobs was charged in District Court with felony mistreatment of a prisoner. He was acquitted of the charge at a trial held in February.
At the trial, a videotape of the incident from a police patrol car showed Jacobs punching the handcuffed man three times in the face after the man kicked at a firefighter and fell to the ground. Jacobs testified at the trial that the suspect had repeatedly kicked him and others and that the punches were "distracting blows."