WATERLOO – A Waterloo police officer who was demoted after an off-duty road rage encounter in 2016 will get his rank back.
In a decision released Friday, Arbitrator Hugh Perry ruled Corbin Payne should be reinstated as a lieutenant, turning what had been a two-rank demotion into a temporary one-year demotion.
Payne, 46, will be returned to the rank of lieutenant -- with full salary and benefits --- on Feb. 20, the one-year anniversary of his demotion.
“It’s the system we work within. I may not agree with the decision, but I abide by it,” said Police Chief Daniel Trelka, who demoted Payne.
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Payne was acquitted of criminal charges in a January 2017 trial, but a month later Trelka demoted Payne, who had been the Tri-County Drug Enforcement Task Force’s lieutenant, down to the rank of patrol officer for violating rules regarding unbecoming conduct, unsatisfactory performance and use of force in connection with the incident.
Payne appealed the demotion to arbitration, and there was a two-day closed door hearing in May 2017. The police union, AFSCME Local 1195, argued the city overreacted considering Payne had about two decades of service with only one prior disciplinary action. The demotion meant a $24,000 pay difference per year, according to the ruling.
The arbitrator ruled the city had cause to demote Payne but concluded the permanent demotion was “too harsh under the circumstances in light of his long and exemplary service.”
“Rather than a two rank demotion, a more appropriate and effective corrective remedy would be a temporary demotion to police officer for a set period with an appropriate reduction of pay and benefits followed by reinstatement to the rank of lieutenant,” Perry wrote in his ruling.
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The incident that sparked the demotion happened June 12, 2016, when Payne was a passenger in a car driven by his wife, and a restaurant delivery driver sped up behind them, almost striking them.
Payne confronted the driver in the parking lot at Kimball and Ridgeway avenues, during which time the driver alleged Payne banged on the hood of his car and pulled him from the vehicle. Payne would later testify he had put out his hand to stop the driver, who was approached him aggressively.
A passerby shouted he was going to call the police, and Payne responded that he was the police and then left the scene, according to testimony in court.
Payne later called dispatch and used police databases to obtain information about the delivery driver, Trelka stated in his disciplinary report.
Payne was charged with misdemeanor assault in August 2016 and found not guilty at trial.