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Appellate court upholds arbitrator's decision reinstating fired Peoria cop

WCBU courts

An Illinois appellate court is upholding an arbitrator's decision ordering reinstatement of a Peoria police officer fired for racially insensitive conduct.

Officer Jeremy Layman was fired in 2018 after Lt. Shawn Wetzel conducted an internal investigation following citizen complaints.

Wetzel found Layman violated police department policy by wearing a "Baby Daddy Removal Team" t-shirt deemed offensive, and posting social media comments implying residents of Peoria's South Side are "entitled thieves" responsible for business closures in the city.

Wetzel also found Layman failed to get permission to spread information not deemed a matter of public concern, and disclosed investigative information gained through his job as a police officer.

Former Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion fired Layman on Feb. 20, 2018. The Peoria police union filed a grievance the day after his termination.

An arbitrator later ordered the city to reinstate Layman. The city of Peoria challenged the reinstatement in Peoria County circuit court, arguing the arbitrator overstepped his authority by forcing the city to violate public policies by employing a racist police officer.

In a unanimous decision, the 3rd District Appellate Court supported the circuit court's decision finding that while Layman's comments were inappropriate, they were not overtly racist.

"We do not condone Layman’s behavior. Rather, we find his Facebook comments offensive and demeaning. We hold only that, under the circumstances of this case, the City failed to establish that the arbitrator’s reinstatement of Layman violates a well-defined public policy," the justices wrote.

The city didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the court decision.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.