The Buffalo, N.Y., police union won nearly $200,000 in back pay for a rogue cop who was fired after his arrest in a big pot bust and then went to prison, it was learned Saturday.
The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association said it went to bat for imprisoned former Officer Jorge Melendez because the firing violated the contract, not because it defends drug-dealing cops.
“This guy’s the epitome of what should not have a badge and a gun,” the Buffalo PBA’s Kevin Kennedy told WIVB-TV. “But you’ve got to do it the right way.”
The union filed a grievance after the City of Buffalo PD fired Melendez in 2012. He had just been arrested by the feds for operating a massive marijuana-growing business out of a Buffalo warehouse.
Prosecutors said the corrupt Melendez kept tabs on the marijuana operation while on duty and in uniform.
Nevertheless, the PBA contended that terminating Melendez without a hearing violated his due process rights under the collective bargaining agreement with the city.
This month an arbitrator agreed and ordered the city to pay Melendez $195,507 in lost wages over a two-year period.
“Now the city has to pay $195,000 to a drug dealer because the commissioner didn’t terminate this guy in the proper manner,” Kennedy said.
City lawyers defended the firing, arguing the city had a compelling interest to get rid of someone like Melendez right away because he had disgraced the badge.
“The city feels that it took the right steps. The proper steps,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told WIVB. “And we will continue to assert that in a court of law.”
Melendez is now serving a 5-year prison sentence after copping to drug conspiracy charges last August.
“This doesn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t sit well with our members,” Kennedy told the station. “But what does sit well is that we advocated for rights in this contract, and advocated for the rights of every police officer. Not to grow marijuana. But to have your day in court.”