JUNEAU, Alaska (Reuters) - An Alaska state trooper should not have been fired for having consensual off-duty sex with a victim of domestic violence several hours after he participated in arresting her husband, the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled.
The former trooper, who was not named in the decision, was part of a small law-enforcement team that arrested the woman’s husband on domestic violence charges in April 2009, according to the decision dated May 2.
Several hours after his shift ended, the trooper contacted the woman, who had requested his personal cellphone number, the decision said. He then drove back to her house, out of uniform and in his personal car, and the two had sex, it added.
Once the trooper’s superiors learned of this, the trooper first faced a suspension from a supervising captain. But a higher ranking officer said the conduct was a discredit to the department and that he should be fired.
The Public Safety Employees union that represents the state troopers objected, arguing the trooper had not been treated the same as others in a similar situation. An arbitrator agreed.
The Supreme Court’s 3-2 decision upholds the arbitrator’s 2010 ruling and a later Superior Court decision. The high court ruled the state lacked “explicit, well-defined and dominant public policy in Alaska prohibiting reinstatement of a law enforcement officer who has engaged in off-duty consensual sexual misconduct.”
The two dissenting judges, however, said that logic overlooked the gravity of the misconduct: “Sex by a responding officer with a distraught domestic violence victim within hours of the alleged crime, likely leaving her in a more vulnerable position when the encounter came to light.”
The union’s executive director, Jake Metcalfe, said the trooper will receive back pay, a sum to be determined in the next few months. But he will not be reinstated because his police certificate was revoked before the Superior Court hearing.
Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham