Austin Police Department acting Chief Cathy Ellison
fired rookie Officer Joel Follmer
on June 2 for his role in the September arrest of 25-year-old Ramon Hernandez
, who fled the scene of a traffic accident. According to a one-paragraph termination letter, Follmer was fired for failing "to meet the standards expected of a probationary officer." Because Follmer was only several months out of the academy and still working on probationary officer status, his employment was at-will and not covered by civil service laws. As such, Ellison was not required to file a disciplinary memo detailing the reasons for his termination, and Follmer is not able to seek reinstatement by appealing the decision to an independent arbitrator, or to the civil service commission. However, Follmer's civil attorney Tom Stribling
says Follmer will try to get his job back through the termination review process reserved for "regular" city of Austin employees, and on June 7 filed the appropriate paperwork with the city's Human Resources Department to initiate the process. Stribling says the review process would require a hearing examiner to review the circumstances of Follmer's termination a process similar to a civil service arbitration and then to make a recommendation regarding Follmer's reinstatement to City Manager Toby Futrell
, who would make the final decision on whether to give Follmer his job back. Stribling says that, to his knowledge, this would be the first time a rookie police officer has utilized the city's standard termination review process to seek reinstatement.
Follmer was one of three officers indicted by a Travis Co. grand jury last winter on a charge of official oppression (a class A misdemeanor) for his handling of the Hernandez arrest. Officer Christopher Gray and former Officer William Heilman (who resigned shortly after the Hernandez arrest) were acquitted on the charge, and prosecutors later dropped the charge against Follmer. In April, then-Chief Stan Knee handed Gray a 70-day suspension for using excessive force (he repeatedly punched Hernandez in the lower back/kidney area while Hernandez was already cuffed and lying face down on the ground) and for "acts bringing discredit" to the department.