Aurora police officer James Waselkow has been reinstated with back pay after being fired for excessive use of force. Waselkow broke the orbital bone near the right eye of Carla Meza during an arrest and then failed to give her medical treatment. He was later fired after the Chief concluded he had used excessive force and did not have probable cause for an arrest after the domestic violence call.
Aurora’s Civil Service Commission has ordered fired police officer James Waselkow, accused of breaking six department policies, including using excessive force, be returned to his job and given back pay. The board said that it was “troubled” by the fact that Meza was seriously injured and that none of the officers rendered aid despite “obvious and serious injuries” to her. It also noted that Waselkow failed to report the injuries, failed to perform responsibilities for preliminary investigation and that he performed his job in an unsatisfactory manner. Yet, they ordered his reinstatement.
According to a ruling released this morning Waselkow did not use unreasonable force during the arrest of Carla Meza during a Feb. 12, 2009 domestic-violence call. The panel also determined that there was probable cause for her arrest.
“The evidence presented to us did not justify termination,” commission chairman Dave Williams said this morning in an interview.
The panel ordered Waselkow be docked 160 hours of pay and is requiring additional training “as deemed appropriate by his immediate supervisor.”
Waselkow was accused of kneeing or kicking Meza in the face as she was arrested. Meza suffered a broken orbital bone near her right eye. She later required surgery.
Waselkow was fired on June 24, 2010 by Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates, who concluded that Meza had been arrested without a warrant, used physical force causing injury to the woman’s face and eye, failed to properly report his use of such force and failed to properly care for Meza after she was injured. Oates also said Waselkow had failed to fulfill his responsibility for a preliminary investigation and performed unsatisfactorily.
Waselkow insisted that he did not intentionally knee Meza in the eye and simply made a mistake in not realizing that she needed medical attention when he saw the blood on her and on his own hands. He testified earlier that it was also a mistake not to mention the injuries in his report. Notably, he also admitted that he had a “very thin” basis for probable cause in arresting Meza who was allegedly drunk.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates fired Waselkow in part due to his refusal to take responsibility in the matter.
This could have produced an interesting tort action to see if a civil jury agrees with these conclusions. However, Meza settled her lawsuit for $85,000.