Judge Sends Poole Reinstatement Case Back to Arbitrator

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An appellate court judge on Thursday sent back a case to an arbitrator involving the reinstatement of Rockford Police Officer Oda Poole.

Poole is one of two officers involved in the controversial and deadly shooting of Mark Barmore at a church daycare back in 2009.  The department fired him two years later.  In 2013, the arbitrator ruled the city didn’t have just cause in firing Poole and ordered he be reinstated on paid administrative leave and prove that he’s fit for active duty.

The judge today agreed the city didn’t have just cause.  But, disagreed on Poole’s conditions for reinstatement.  The judge said the arbitrator’s analysis was, “incomplete” and “extremely weak.”  The judge then ordered the arbitrator to issue a new ruling.

The city issued a statement following the ruling.

In it, Mayor Larry Morrissey (I-Rockford) said, “While this decision does not resolve the matter, I take some comfort that [the] arbitrator, the Circuit Court and the Appellate Court have all refused to render a decision that would have any of them directly responsible for returning Oda Poole to duty.”

Morrissey continued to say this case is a perfect example of how difficult it is for municipalities to enact police reform:

“This litigation provides insight into the difficulties of addressing police reform. While the leaders of many jurisdictions are criticized for turning a blind eye towards troubled officers, Illinois continues to perpetuate a system where nearly anonymous arbitrators conduct secret hearings to determine whether a municipality may discipline or discharge individuals who may no longer be capable of the extremely challenging position as police officers.”

Both the city and Poole have a number of options available to them following the Appellate Court decision:

  • Either party may request an en banc hearing by the entire Appellate Court
  • Either party may file a Petition for Leave to Appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court
  • Both parties may return to the arbitrator
  • Or, both parties could reach a settlement

In the meantime, Poole will remain on paid administrative leave pending the result of the litigation.

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