Firing constable for alleged shoplifting like 'using a sledgehammer to kill a fly'

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Firing constable for alleged shoplifting like 'using a sledgehammer to kill a fly'

Firing constable for alleged shoplifting like 'using a sledgehammer to kill a fly'

Firing Fredericton police officer Cherie Campbell last year over an alleged shoplifting attempt in Maine "was like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly," one of her lawyers argued to the Court of Appeal on Wednesday.

Michael Lacy said it amounted to the death penalty in employment law and it was unfair to send Campbell "to the employment gallows."

Campbell was never convicted of shoplifting. The jury at her shoplifting trial in Maine was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether she intentionally tried to steal $20 worth of makeup from Marden's Surplus and Salvage in Houlton on Dec. 2, 2014.

The matter was settled out of court without a finding of guilt or innocence.

But Campbell was fired from the Fredericton Police Force on Jan. 6, 2016, following a New Brunswick Police Commission disciplinary hearing.

An arbitrator ruled Campbell was guilty of discreditable conduct for the alleged shoplifting attempt and attempting to gain favour from the local investigating police officers by repeatedly telling them she, too, was a police officer.

Campbell sought a judicial review of the arbitrator's ruling, but Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paulette Garnett ruled in December that the arbitrator's findings were reasonable and upheld Campbell's firing.

Decision reserved

Her lawyers, Lacy and T.J. Burke, appealed to the province's highest court on Wednesday, seeking to have the discreditable conduct finding overturned, Campbell acquitted and reinstated as a member of the Fredericton Police Force.

They argued there wasn't enough evidence to prove she was trying to curry favour from the investigating officers, and firing her was not an appropriate punishment.

The lawyer representing the City of Fredericton and Fredericton Police Force Chief Leanne Fitch countered that the arbitrator's decision should not be disturbed unless it's unreasonable.

Amy Gough-Farnworth told the court that Cedric Haines made his decision based on the facts and she stressed that the Court of Queen's Bench judge found he made no error in coming to that conclusion.

Gough-Farnworth also argued that police officers hold positions of trust and must be held to a higher standard.

The Court of Appeal has reserved decision until an undetermined date.

Waiting for Jeff Smiley decision

Justice Marc Richard said the three-justice panel won't even begin deliberations until after the court rules on the case of another fired Fredericton police officer, Const. Jeff Smiley.

Smiley was fired after an arbitrator found him guilty on Dec. 2, 2015, of four counts of breaching the professional conduct standards of police officers, including domestic violence and firearms-related offences.

But Smiley sought a judicial review and on Nov. 18, 2016, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Judy Clendening quashed the arbitrator's decision, ruling Smiley's dismissal was unreasonable.

The New Brunswick Police Commission subsequently appealed.

Once the Court of Appeal rules on Smiley's case, Richard said the city's lawyer will have up to a week to submit any new arguments on Campbell's case and Campbell's lawyers will have another week before the panel begins deliberating.