Town of Wethersfield and IBPO, Local 391
A municipality can discharge an officer who allegedly uses unreasonable force. In October 2010, Miguel Vargas, who worked for the Town of Wethersfield as a police officer, signed a "last chance" agreement in which he promised to control his anger and to treat citizens with respect. In March 2011, Officer Vargas responded to a call that a Ford Mustang had been in a one-car accident. Allegedly, Vargas was concerned that the driver, Alan Klavins, intended to use the Mustang's bumper as a weapon, when Klavins picked up the bumper at the same time that Klavins' father arrived in a sports utility vehicle and parked in front of the Mustang. Allegedly, Officer Vargas grabbed Klavins, pushed Klavins onto the hood of the Mustang and took Klavins to the ground. Klavins allegedly cursed and called Officer Vargas a "homo" three times. Officer Vargas tasered Klavins twice. Klavins' father yelled at his child, then complained to Officer Vargas, "He's not fighting you." The police department discharged Officer Vargas for unreasonable use of force. The union filed a grievance and argued that Officer Vargas acted reasonably, because he believed Klavins' conduct was threatening when he picked up the bumper, and Klavins' father and the passengers who had been in Klavins' motor vehicle might have fought the police officer. The town objected that Officer Vargas should have used de-escalation techniques, prior to use of force. Elliot Spector, who served as an expert witness for the municipality, opined it was excessive use of force to push Klavins onto the hood of the Mustang, to take him to the ground and to taser Klavins twice. The majority of arbitrators voted, 2-1, that the municipality possessed just cause to discharge. "The utilization of the taser by Officer Vargas against Klavins not once but twice," wrote the majority, "is unreasonable relative to the incident and the availability of alternatives to Officer Vargas." Kenneth Plumb and Kyle McClain represented the municipality. Robert Pickering represented the union.