News
>BACK

Riverside Police Officer To Return to Work

Posted on Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 12:00PM

In everyday life, people remember things inaccurately. Sometimes they forget them altogether. Usually, no one is branded a liar. Unless, of course, you’re a police officer. In that case, at least according to most police departments, your memory can’t be wrong. There’s no room for mistakes, and don’t think your past reputation for honesty will help you either.

Erich Feimer had a reputation for honesty. Everyone, from childhood friends, high school teachers, even fellow officers, testified to Feimer’s honesty and reliability. So, when asked by his lieutenant at an IA interrogation whether he had taken an arrestee to the ground in a case over two-months-old for which he had no preparation and minimal notice, he replied quite honestly, “Not that I remember.” When asked by that same lieutenant that if he had made a mistake in his memory, would he admit to it, Feimer replied, “Yes.” And he did. After going home and finally having an opportunity to think about the case and the arrest, Feimer remembered that he did possibly take the arrestee down to the ground. He called his department rep that night, and was re-interviewed the next day.

Sounds simple enough, right? After all, Feimer had a reputation for honesty. Feimer had won the Medal of Valor for standing his ground while trying to force the door open to City Hall as a crazed gunman held a terrified City Hall staff hostage and fired bullets right past his head. Feimer had been told by his lieutenant after the IA interview that he was one of the lieutenant’s “stars” and was given more responsibility and assignments. Feimer had been involved in over a dozen uses of force in the past more striking than this one, and had never failed to report any of them.

One would think that his failure to document the take down in his report and his failure to recall this one arrest at the IA was simply a mistake. Surely a person with that background would be given the benefit of the doubt by his department, a department that trusted him enough to allow him to work for the 11 months while the investigation was pending? Surely Feimer’s stellar past would help him in this case? Right?

Wrong.

On December 13, 2001 the department terminated Erich Feimer for dishonesty.
On June 24 and 26, 2002, Feimer took the matter to arbitration. He was represented by Michael Schwartz of Silver, Hadden & Silver. Schwartz brought out the fact that Feimer had never denied taking the arrestee to the ground, but stated that he simply “did not remember” a take down. Schwartz also effectively impeached the lieutenant who had interrogated Feimer, showing that although the lieutenant adamantly recalled serving Feimer with notice of the IA interrogation almost two weeks before the interrogation, the evidence clearly showed less than two days notice. Moreover, though the same lieutenant recalled serving Feimer and his partner with a copy of the complaint almost two months before the IA, again, the evidence showed that Feimer and his partner only received notice of the incident in question the day of the IA. Was the lieutenant a liar, or merely mistaken about when he actually served Feimer with notice of the interrogation? And how could the lieutenant, the same lieutenant that Feimer allegedly lied to, keep giving Feimer assignments and responsibilities for the next 11 months? It made no sense, Schwartz argued, especially in the face of several character witnesses and Feimer’s own, credible testimony.

Arbitrator Cohn agreed. In his September 19, 2002 “Order and Award”, Cohn noted Feimer’s good reputation and the lack of motive to lie about the take down. He also found the evidence put on by the city less credible than that by Feimer.

The city, however, filed a petition in Superior Court requesting a Writ of Mandamus reversing the arbitrator’s award. Once again, Silver, Hadden & Silver defended Feimer. Susan Silver, along with Michael Schwartz, filed a response, arguing that there was substantial evidence in the record to support the arbitrator’s finding that Feimer had not lied. Silver and Schwartz also argued that, as there was no dishonesty, the arbitrator did not abuse his discretion in ordering Feimer back to work with the department. Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask agreed, denying the city’s petition. A very vindicated, and very happy Erich Feimer now looks forward to getting back on track in what still should be a promising career in law enforcement.

PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.