Pandemic hindered arbitration process
The city of Utica and the Utica Police Department issued the following joint statement today regarding the arbitration ruling regarding Sgt. Samuel M. Geddes:
On Aug. 23, 2020, Utica Police Sergeant S. Geddes was involved in an incident in the community in which a civilian complaint was filed relative to his conduct undertaken while investigating the call.
Based on the internal investigation conducted by the Utica Police Department Professional Standards Unit, the complaint and findings were forwarded to City of Utica Corporation Counsel Office for collaboration on recommendations for discipline, and Sgt. Geddes was suspended without pay for a period of 30 days, the maximum allowable by law.
Following the suspension, the city sought termination for Sgt. Geddes based on the charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and that the force used during the incident was unreasonable. He, along with his representation through the John E. Creedon Police Benevolent Association, declined to accept this, and the disciplinary process proceeded to arbitration. Through arbitration, the City advised that, if found guilty thereof, the penalty to be imposed may consist of reprimand, the forfeiture or withholding of pay for a specified time, suspension without pay for a specified time, loss of rank or dismissal of service.
Due to COVID and other factors, the process took significantly longer than anticipated; however, on April 18, 2022, the mutually agreed upon arbitrator issued an opinion and award, and it is as follows:
- The arbitrator found Sergeant Geddes guilty of the first charge for conduct unbecoming and suspended him a total 35 days (upholding the city’s initial 30-day suspension and adding an additional five days thereto);
- The arbitrator further ordered Sergeant Geddes complete remedial instruction focused on anger management and effective communication to de-escalate confrontational situations prior to his return to duty;
- The arbitrator did not find Sergeant Geddes guilty of the second charge for excessive force, relying heavily on the report of the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office that had found his use of force (pepper spray) appropriate under the circumstances; and
- In rendering the above discipline, the arbitrator also took into account Sergeant Geddes’s exemplary record, favorable evaluations, commendations and expressions of appreciation contained within his personnel file.
As outlined in the collective bargaining agreement between the PBA and the city this arbitration is binding, and Sgt. Geddes will return to full duty following serving the additional five days suspension.
The city of Utica wishes to express its appreciation to the arbiter assigned to this process for their diligent application of the facts and the decision rendered.