Lehigh Valley

Arbitrator: Getting job back is Fountain Hill Ofc. Grady Cunningham's last chance

Arbitrator: Getting job back is police officer's last chance

FOUNTAIN HILL, Pa. - In just a few days, a Fountain Hill, Lehigh Co., police officer who was fired for using excessive force will be back on the beat.

In the arbitrator's report, Ofc. Grady Cunningham testified he was the victim of racial slurs during the incident.

The arbitrator, Steven Wolf, said giving Cunningham his job back is the officer's final chance.

Wolf said he has looked at the video several times. It shows Cunningham choking and throwing down a handcuffed suspect.

"There is a fine line that police officers must observe," Wolf wrote in his decision. "On June 4, 2012, the grievant crossed that line and exercised excessive force when attempting to render Mr. McLaughlin compliant in the holding area. I agree."

Fountain Hill police Chief Ed Bachert and Mayor Jose Rosado fired Cunningham over the incident.

"We thought it was in the best interest of the police department and also of the borough," Rosado said.

While the issue has a lot of people talking, Cunningham does have some support in the Fountain Hill community.

One business owner who didn't want to reveal her identity for fear of retaliation said Cunningham should keep his badge.

"I feel like he is a good officer and he's done a lot of good for the borough," she said. "You can go to him and ask him questions and he'd be honest and answer."

Cunningham will get a chance to prove he is a good cop. The arbitrator said his decision should not be interpreted as minimizing Cunningham's behavior.

"I direct that the grievant be afforded a last chance to demonstrate that he is capable of sustaining a career in law enforcement," Wolf wrote in his report.

The ruling is a conditional reinstatement. Cunningham must be re-trained and attend anger management. The ruling calls for termination if Cunningham has another documented act of excessive force.

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