Fired Fort Myers cop trying to get job back

CREATED Jan 21, 2014

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FORT MYERS, Fla. - New information tonight regarding a former Fort Myers police officer who was fired by Chief Doug Baker for using excessive force against a suspect during a traffic stop last year. That former officer wants his job back and he had a hearing concerning his future Tuesday. 

There are two main questions, was it excessive force? And, should he have been fired? Those are issues an arbitrator must decide after former Officer Trevor Lehman lost his job almost a year ago.

Tensions ran high in the arbitration hearing to see whether Lehman should've been fired for using excessive force during an incident last February 4. Lehman was attempting to arrest convicted felon Chaylon McCleary during a traffic stop. It's the cop punching him that's the issue. Both sides disagree on whether it was necessary.

"There was no need for open palms or strikes to the head or neck area," said David Grossi, a police training expert who was hired by the city to be and expert witness in the case. "That two officers using team tactics could've brought him to the ground and handcuffed him."

"The individual continued to resist. It's without question that this individual, to take him into custody, took 5 full grown law enforcement officers," said Michael Braverman, the attorney for the police union representing Lehman.

The department's version is that pepper spray or perhaps a taser were options. "That there was nothing else available to him defies logic because there were four other officers that were involved in the incident and all four had other things available to them," said John Potanovic, the outside attorney hired by the FMPD.

But the police union's attorney says Lehman did what he was trained to do. "When you see that the way he was trained didn't make a clear distinction between when he could punch in the stomach and him being able to strike in the head and neck," added Braverman.

Right after the incident, four FMPD supervisors not only didn't recommend firing him, but didn't even recommend suspending him.
"No one that reviewed this circumstance considered it a use of force violation," Braverman said.

It was only after Lehman was interviewed three times, that Chief Baker decided to fire him. "The chiefs termination was ultimately based on Mr. Lehman's refusal to recognize that what he did was wrong, and the chief can not tolerate it in his department," explained Potanovic.

Tomorrow Chief Baker is expected to testify. The arbitrator, who is from Miami, will have the final decision in the case.

Do you agree or disagree with the chief's decision to fire the officer for excessive force? Call or text us at (239) 206-FOX4.