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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Cleveland, Ohio 04/10/1985

Officer Joe Paskvan drew and fired at a young man holding what he thought was a shotgun, and then the real nightmare began.

June 24, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

At first, the department claimed that Paskvan's permanent assignment to the gym was required to maintain longer operating hours. When it was pointed out that the same could be accomplished by assigning any individual to the detail, the department allowed Paskvan to return to his original duty on the Auto Theft Detail, 19 long months after the Luciano shooting.

Paskvan might have regained his position, but Rudolph issued an order that Paskvan was not to conduct any business outside of the headquarters building.

Rudolph also continued to decline each of Paskvan's requests to seek outside employment. More arbitration ensued until November 1988 when Paskvan finally prevailed. The arbitrator found that the department's fear of another shooting and adverse reactions from citizen groups was "arbitrary, discriminatory, and unreasonable."

This series of battles marked a major victory for Paskvan, but his largest campaign was yet to be waged.

Denied Promotion

Paskvan had the tenure, the experience, the smarts - both streetwise and academically - to do well on his promotional exam. He'd created the requisite work foundation with which he'd feel comfortable mentoring and evaluating others while working in a supervisory capacity.

In 1987, Paskvan took the promotional exam for promotion to sergeant and placed third out of more than 100 officers. Mitchell Brown, director of Public Safety, held all the cards when it came to promoting police officers on the department. Brown followed the "Rule of 3" when issuing promotions, meaning that any of the top three candidates could be chosen to fill a vacant position.

Paskvan was passed over. Repeatedly.

The top 18 candidates were promoted to sergeant in September 1988, except for Paskvan. Over time, 49 officers would be promoted from the candidate list-those that had ranked from 1 to 50-except for Paskvan.

Paskvan realized that if he was going to advance, he would have to sue his employer.

In the 1989 trial, Brown testified that controversy over the previous shootings was an important factor in denying promotion to Paskvan. Chief Rudolph recommended against Paskvan's promotion due to similar apprehensions over public outcries from community organizations. He cited Paskvan's "poor judgment" in the two shootings he had investigated.

The first trial resulted in a hung jury. The judge tried to negotiate a settlement between the parties, but the department wouldn't accept it. By March 1994, the series of lawsuits over Paskvan's denied promotion resulted in a jury verdict in his favor. The city immediately appealed the decision.

The appellate court upheld the original ruling, stating that "Rudolph and Brown, individually and as the city's policymakers in their official capacities, acted with discriminatory purpose in choosing not to promote Paskvan... because he is white, Paskvan was offered as the sacrificial lamb to appease the protesting minority organizations."

Eight years after his peers on the candidate list were promoted, Paskvan finally earned his promotion to sergeant and was awarded reparations with interest for the years of lost wages. He repaid the police union for the support they provided to him throughout the arbitrations and trials.

Today, Paskvan assists others who occasionally find themselves fighting the brave fight against the very system they are sworn to protect. Retired from the Cleveland PD, Paskvan is a member of the POLICE-TREXPO Advisory Board.

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