All those of us who have ever said of an errant public servant: “He or she should be fired!” have just learned it’s not always that easy.
DeLand is being forced to reinstate a police officer whose aggressive and offensive dealings with citizens got him fired two years ago, and deservedly so.
The details of why the arbitrator decided the firing was slightly less than fair and had to be reversed aren’t important now. What’s important are the lessons we take from this, and our actions on the path forward.
The body-camera footage of this officer’s shameful behavior is hard to watch; all of us must hope we are never treated by an officer of the peace the way Officer Johan “Joey” Mulero treated some of the citizens he was called upon to serve.
But DeLand residents must not take from this a lesser regard for the DeLand Police Department. At the time of Mulero’s misbehavior, Police Chief Jason Umberger had been on the job only three months, and likely was just beginning to discover what was wrong in the department that needed to be fixed.
Umberger has done good things — intensive training of the officers in implicit bias is one example — and he will no doubt continue to lead our local police force to become more fair and effective.
We must also give Officer Mulero a chance to redeem himself. Mulero said he had been trained to act the way he did, and that may well be the case. Having had the opportunity to grow from this experience and learn the error of those ways, Mulero may well become a fine officer, if given the chance.
Of course, if he hasn’t learned new ways, Mulero may be fired again, and should be.
Let’s go forward with the highest hope that the DeLand Police Department will be even better and stronger in its victory over this challenge.