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PBA Working To Reinstate Former TPD Officer After His Recent Firing Over March Shooting

A row of Tallahassee police cars
Tallahassee Police Department Facebook

The union representing law enforcement officers in the Florida Panhandle say they’re going to fight the recent firing of a Tallahassee Police officer.

Back in March, Officer Damien Pearson shot at a moving vehicle after it had hit him. Last week, Tallahassee Police Chief Mike DeLeo fired Pearson.

In a statement, DeLeo said Pearson violated the agency’s use of force policy because it was not reasonable to believe “there was an imminent threat of great bodily harm or death at the time Officer Pearson fired his weapon.”

“We dispute the claim by Chief DeLeo that he wasn’t in imminent danger,” said Steve Slade, the President of the Big Bend chapter of the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Slade's union has decided to fight the firing on behalf of former officer Pearson.

“He was there for a suspicious vehicle,” Slade added. “As he was getting out of the car, the vehicle went in reverse, rammed it into his police car, which ultimately struck him and caused injury to his hip and knee where he had to seek medical treatment and physical therapy. In that time, he had three seconds as he was hit and stumbled, he pulled his firearm to protect his life because he felt as though he was in imminent danger and fired approximately five to six rounds into the car, alongside the car.”

While an internal investigation resulted in Pearson’s firing, Tallahassee State Attorney Jack Campbell said Pearson did not violate any state laws and no criminal charges would be filed.

Slade says this just adds validation to disputing the firing.

“Absolutely,” he continued. “Our criminal justice investigation bureau investigated and stated that he didn’t commit a crime and he was justified in what he did and that was seconded by the State Attorney’s office, by Jack Campbell. And, the million-dollar question is: why now and why Damien?”

So, the PBA has filed a grievance on behalf of Pearson with the city of Tallahassee.

“The city has or the chief of the Police Department has 15 days to respond to the grievance,” Slade stated. “We think that’s going to be denied. We think they’re going to uphold the determination. Then, after we get a response back to the police department, we have 15 days to file with the city of Tallahassee, which is Step 2. The police department with the chief was Step 1. They have 20 days to respond. We think they’re going to deny it as well. And, then we move to Step 3, where we have 15 days to file for arbitration, and that’s where we pick an arbiter who will hear the case outside of the city’s private side and render his findings, which is binding arbitration.”

Slade says their hope is Pearson will be reinstated and receive payment for his lost wages.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.