The Arkansas Court of Appeals today upheld
a circuit court ruling that reinstated the firing of Little Rock office David Edgmon
for off-duty behavior in 2010 at a River Market bar.
Chief Stuart Thomas
fired Edgmon, whose actions were captured on a widely circulated video (above), but the Little Rock Civil Service Commission shortened his punishment to a 30-day suspension. The chief appealed and Circuit Judge Tim Fox reinstated his termination, which the Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed today.
According to the court, Edgmon was intoxicated when he approached men outside Ernie Biggs Piano Bar
and asked that they stop "blowing weed in my face." He acknowledged a camera that was running, produced a badge and told the men, "Get out of my fucking face. Get this illegal product, fucking jigaboo shit out of my fucking face."
Thomas said his behavior was embarrassing, humiliating and called into question Edgmon's ability to do his job impartially. "It has, in my opinion, a negative impact on the morale of the work force," Thomas said.
Edgmon contended he was unaware that "jigaboo" was a racially offensive term. Thomas doubted that. He also said,“I can’t begin to believe that that would be indicative of prudent judgment of a law enforcement officer who’s out working every day if you make that type of word association in that situation.”
Edgmon argued that other officers had received less punishment for similar offenses. He said, for example, that one officer used the phrase "porch monkey" with a suspect awaiting hospital treatment for a K-9 bite. He objected, too, to exclusion of evidence about a police party at which officers had appeared in blackface, even though it occurred more than 20 years ago. The appeals court turned these and procedural objections aside. Judge Larry Vaught
wrote for a three-judge panel:
Here the facts are undisputed, and the court found that Edgmon engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer; engaged in personal conduct which, if brought to the attention of the public, could result in justified criticism of the officer or the department; and was intoxicated in public view. Considering the fact that these are three separate and severe violations, the reinstatement of Edgmon’s termination was not clearly against the preponderance of the evidence. Any single offense could have resulted in such an action, and the cumulative impact is reflected in the circuit court’s decision, which we affirm in all respects.