Analysis of Cleveland Police Disciplinary Arbitrations


For this report, quantitative and qualitative analysis was performed on the court-filed rulings made by third party arbitrators for disciplinary cases brought by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association (CPPA) against the City of Cleveland for every year between 2014 and 2018.

This analysis looks for patterns in the rational for dismissing or sustaining the appeals, either partially or in full. Outcomes and awards will be broken down and analyzed by arbitrator, year, officer demographics, supervisor, performance history, charges against the officer, and original disciplinary action, if applicable.

These arbitrations are brought by either the FOP or CPPA against the City, with the unions disputing particular disciplinary action against one or more of their officers. In 2014, changes were made to the disciplinary matrix of the Cleveland Division of Police. It is important to remember that not all disciplines are brought up to arbitration, and that the unions are careful which cases they send, as these cases can be used as precedent later. The research questions of which cases are chosen and why is outside the scope of this document. 

Summary of Findings

  • The majority of cases are sustained, either partly or fully, with the Unions prevailing approximately 67% of the time.
  • It is possible that arbitrators’ desire for “balance” might be skewing the cases more in favor of being sustained.
  • Evidence suggests that white officers are more likely to have their cases sustained than officers of color, but more data is needed before any firm conclusion can be drawn.
  • There is not enough data to determine if there is a difference in outcomes by gender, but it appears that women might be more likely to have their cases sustained then men. 
  • Rank seems to have little influence on outcome.
  • The majority of disciplinary procedures were initiated by the administration rather than the officer’s immediate supervisor.
  • Despite some arbitrators suggesting that it does not matter, performance history appears to have a strong influence on outcome; those officers whose performance history is mentioned by the arbitrator were more likely to have their cases sustained. 
  • Level of discipline had a significant effect, with Class I and II offences more likely to be sustained than Class III. 
  • The arbitrators’ explicit rationale for the decisions were very consistent across the board, in that almost every arbitrator appealed to both precedent and adherence to the letter of policies.

Related Information

What is Arbitration

Arbitration is an out-of-court resolution of a dispute between two or more parties parties to a contract, decided by an impartial third party, the arbitrator.

"137 Shots" Arbitration Cases

The police chase and fatal shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in 2012 resulted in the discipline of several police officers, 24 of which were taken to arbitration. The arbitration cases are listed below.

Involved CDP Officer: Sgt. Patricia Coleman, Sgt. Randolph Daley, Sgt. Brian Chetnik, Sgt. Matthew Putnam

Involved CDP Officer: Sgt. Mark Bickerstaff, Lt. Jason Edens, Sgt. Matthew Gallagher, Sgt. Brian Lockwood, Sgt. Richard Martinez

Involved CDP Officer: P.O. Scott Sistek, P.O. Cynthia Moore, P.O. Randy Patrick, P.O. Paul Box, Det. William Salupo, Det. Michael Rinkus, P.O. Michael Brelo, P.O. Wilfredo Diaz, P.O. Michael Farley, P.O. Brian Sabolik, Det. Christopher Ereg, Det. Erin O’Donnell

Involved CDP Officer: Sgt. Michael Donegan, Sgt. Paul Wilson, Lt. Ulrich Zouhar