Fired Policeman Can’t Sue Department After Settlement

DENVER (CN) — A former Utah police officer who shot and killed a woman in her car cannot resue the city that fired him — after it rehired him and settled — the 10th Circuit affirmed Tuesday.

“[Shaun] Cowley received all the process that the due process clause requires,” 10th Circuit Judge Joel M. Carson III wrote for the three-judge panel, upholding summary judgment for West Valley City.

“Cowley concedes that he received two pretermination hearings and does not challenge the adequacy of those hearings,” the Donald Trump appointee added.

While an undercover drug officer in 2012, Cowley shot to death 21-year-old Danielle Willard outside an apartment in West Valley City, a suburb of Salt Lake City. Willard’s parents sued the city in August 2013, one of several lawsuits involving the city police force that led the district attorney to investigate claims of department-wide corruption.

Crowley was charged with second-degree felony manslaughter, but the charges were dismissed in October 2014. However, he was fired for mishandling evidence.

Crowley claimed he actually was fired for telling investigators about “systemic and pervasive misconduct” in the police force, from mishandling of illegal immigrants as confidential informants, to officers putting trackers on vehicles without following protocol.

He claimed the city manager gave the direct order to fire him because “anything less than termination sends the wrong message to the department and the citizens.”

When Crowley was reinstated in June 2015, he was awarded “$88,190.54 in lost salary and a contribution of $32,832.82 to his retirement account,” according to the 10th Circuit’s 23-page ruling. “The stipulation also required Cowley to voluntarily resign his employment.”

When Crowley tried to sue West Valley City for denying him due process on his whistleblower claims, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins threw out the case.

“Cowley first argues that the district court erred when it concluded his Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim did not survive his settlement with West Valley City,” Carson wrote for the 10th Circuit. “In making these arguments, Cowley maintains his settlement for back pay does not preclude him from pursuing his due process claim because he is entitled to damages for the purported due process violation beyond the back pay he received in his settlement.”

Crowley’s attorney, Daniel Baczynski of Ayres Law Firm, argued before the 10th Circuit on Jan. 22 that there was more at stake than his attorney’s fees, the panel was not persuaded.

U.S. Circuit Judges Paul Kelly Jr., appointed by George H.W. Bush, and Gregory Phillips, appointed by Barack Obama, also sat on the panel.

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