APD's Muñoz Reinstated

Fired in May for host of administrative policy violations – including charges that he lied and used excessive force in connection with the alleged choking of a 15-year-old – officer's punishment gets reduced to three-day suspension

APD's Muñoz Reinstated Austin Police Department Cpl. Richard Muñoz, who was fired in May for a host of administrative policy violations – including charges that he lied and used excessive force in connection with the alleged choking of a 15-year-old – was reinstated, and his punishment reduced to a three-day suspension, by an independent arbitrator to whom he'd appealed his termination. At issue was Muñoz's handling of a family disturbance call at a North Austin trailer park on Nov. 11, 2005. During the call, Muñoz briefly handcuffed two juveniles – a 15-year-old and a 12-year-old who he mistakenly thought were violating city ordinance for not being in school. He released the two after realizing it was actually a school holiday, but in the course of investigating the initial complaint, Muñoz used his thumb and first finger on the 15-year-old's jaw to turn the teen's face toward him.

According to arbitrator AlmaLee Guttshall, not only was there insufficient proof to sustain the most serious charges against Muñoz, but she also concluded that Internal Affairs investigators failed to include in their final report relevant evidence that might call into question the validity of the complaint about Muñoz's behavior. Guttshall concluded that Muñoz's chain-of-command, including then-Chief Stan Knee, apparently relied on mere portions of the entire case file in order to sustain the allegations against Muñoz and, ultimately, to hand him an indefinite suspension – the civil-service equivalent of a firing. "The members of [Muñoz's chain of command] … were not fully aware of the facts," she wrote. "They may have been less likely to perceive the positive aspects of the encounter because of the inflammatory nature of 'choking' a 'child,' rather than the handling of an upset and angry mother and her angry and upset teenager."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Richard Muñoz, APD, AlmaLee Guttshall, use of force

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