By Julissa Catalan
A year after a white female police officer was fired for cutting off a detained Black woman’s hair weave, the cop now finds herself back at her old jobwith full back pay, benefits and full seniority.
Officer Bernadette Najor has been reinstated to the Warren (Mich.) Police Department after an arbitrator ruled that the female cop did not violate the terms of her employment contract by forcibly cutting off the hair weave of Charda Gregory, a Black woman who was temporarily detained on suspicion of destruction of property.
The police station security footage belowfrom Nov. 13, 2013shows Najor repeatedly hitting Gregory in the stomach and chest before pushing her into a chair. Three other officers then help put Gregory in a restraint seat as she tries to resist the officers’ aggression. Najor then yanks Gregory’s head back and cuts her weave off.
The video also shows that Gregory was not aggressive toward the officers and was compliant in their requests up until the violence toward her began.
As they are required to do, the officers who witnessed or helped put Gregory in restraints filled out mandatory use-of-force reportsall except for Najor.
Two days later, Najor was suspended with pay, while Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green and the department’s Internal Affairs Division reviewed the video and other evidence from the incident.
After watching the security footage, Green was quoted as saying, “Unless I’m blind, I don’t see where she’s offering any resistance whatsoever,” adding that restraining Gregory and cutting out her weave was completely unnecessary.
Green fired Najor the next month and she was later charged with seven violations of departmental general orders, including conduct unbecoming an officer; failing to foster public respect and cooperation; failure to perform in a safe and tactful manner; and use of unnecessary force or violence.
Initially, Najor said that she cut the weave off Gregory’s head because she feared it could be used as a weapon to harm her or damage property at the station.
But during the arbitration hearing, Najor testified that she had been told by her superiors that she must remove anything not permanently attached to prisonersincluding artificial limbs, belts, false teeth, glasses and wigsand that Gregory’s hair was “loosely tied in with loops.”
“To view the video without the benefit of an audio component and without carefully weighing the accounts of officers who were present does not reflect the reality of what occurred. The officers, who were interviewed separately, gave consistent accounts, agreeing that the prisoner was combative and resistant and their actions to control her did not involve the use of excessive force.
“The grievant [Najor] testified that she had heard the prisoner make remarks about suicide, and even though she didn’t think the prisoner was serious, she decided to take the precautionary action of removing the weave to make sure that the prisoner did not use the weave to hurt herself or others.”
Meanwhile, the Warren Police Department issued the following statement regarding the arbitrator’s decision:
The City of Warren is in receipt of an arbitrator’s decision reinstating a police officer involved in a highly publicized incident in our jail.
The City strongly disagrees with the arbitrator’s decision. The actions taken by the Warren Police Department were appropriate and required.
Despite that, this is a nation of laws, and even where we believe that an arbitrator’s decision is plainly wrong, we will follow it.
This unfortunate set of circumstances should not in any way detract from the brave police officers in our police department who put their lives on the line every day.The City will continue to strive to make this excellent police department even better.
Gregory was arrested on Nov. 13, 2013, at the Suez Motel after being accused of vandalizing a room.
According to Gregory’s lawyer, PaulMisukewicz, “She had a couple of drinks, then woke up in a strange place.Didn’t know how she got there, completely disoriented.”
Gregory believes she was drugged at a partythe last place she remembers being that night.
Originally, she was charged with a misdemeanor offense for destruction of property but was later charged with a felony and pepper sprayed after she kicked through a window of the police car that transported her to the station.
All charges against Gregory were eventually dropped, and the city later awarded her $75,000 as part of a settlement.