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Former Prosser officer wrongfully fired over misconduct allegation, arbitrator rules

PROSSER, Wash. - An arbitrator has ruled in favor of a former Prosser police officer who was fired last year over a sexual misconduct allegation, the City of Prosser confirmed Wednesday. 

Shane Hellyer was fired by the City of Prosser on March 29, 2018 after a woman accused him of groping her while she was handcuffed in his patrol car.

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office investigated the allegation, but prosecutors determined that there was not enough evidence to file criminal charges.

In an internal investigation by the police department, Prosser Police Chief Dave Giles said that Hellyer violated several other department rules involving alleged inappropriate behavior toward women in other cases. Based on that investigation, the city decided to terminate the officer.

Hellyer’s union, Teamsters Local 839, opposed the decision and worked with the City of Prosser to choose a third-party arbitrator, which they mutually agreed upon, to settle the dispute. 

“The arbitrator found that the city did not have just cause to terminate [Hellyer’s] employment and has ordered the city to return him back to work with full back pay,” said union representative Russell Shjerven.

Shjierven told KAPP-KVEW the incident from which the allegation stemmed took place in the winter of 2016, but the accuser didn’t report it until nine or 10 months later, while she was in jail. 

He said the woman admitted to being intoxicated during the incident and her story changed multiple times over the course of the investigation. He said the city then began trying to find other information that was unfounded and “wasn’t pertinent to the case.”

Arbitrator Kenneth Latsch reviewed the case and interviewed witnesses from both parties before ruling in favor of Hellyer. 

Shjierven said he expects Hellyer to be reinstated as a Prosser police officer within the next 20 to 30 days. 

The City of Prosser said in a statement that it is “reviewing the report and discussing its options.”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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