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Officer’s appeal of firing denied

BRADENTON — A former Bradenton police officer lost an appeal after an arbitrator upheld the department’s decision to fire him, according to an arbitrator’s ruling.

Roger Edwards, who began working at the Bradenton Police Department in 2006, was fired after a March 2008 incident in which he claimed a man bit his hand and attempted to go for his gun during an arrest. Investigators at the department found the report to be false, and Edwards was terminated in October 2008.

The department and the union, the Police Benevolent Association, hired an arbitrator, St. Petersburg-based Mark M. Grossman, who recently made a ruling in the case after two days of hearings this summer.

“The chief concluded, from his examination of the file, that Edwards submitted false reports and that he could not have Edwards represent the department,” Grossman wrote in his 23-page finding. “The evidence in this case is clear and convincing: Edwards intentionally did not accurately report the events of March 5, 2008. The charges against Edwards are sustained.”

Edwards broke 10 department rules and was fired, according to a department disciplinary hearing report. Edwards, who was 38 at the time, used excessive force when he punched and stunned a man, the report said.

He then created a false report when arresting 45-year-old Raymond Adams, according to a BPD investigative report.

Adams was arrested on charges of cocaine possession, resisting arrest with violence and aggravated battery on law enforcement officer. He filed a complaint with the department stating he was illegally detained and arrested by Edwards.

The charges were later dropped.

Adams is considered a career criminal. He has been arrested more than 50 times in Florida, according to the BPD report.

On March 5, 2008, Adams was walking and talking on his cell phone at 11 a.m. in the 800 block of Eighth Circle East when Edwards stopped him. Edwards asked Adams if he could question him. Adams said no and walked away.

The men gave different accounts of what happened next.

Adams said Edwards threw him against his squad car before he managed to break free and run. He said Edwards then fired a stun gun at him, but he managed to pull out one of the prongs before jumping a chain link fence. Edwards followed and punched him in the face before handcuffing him, Adams said.

While the union argued the department’s investigation was inept and that it simply took the word of Adams, the chief said the department’s investigation found Edwards continually changed his story about numerous details in the arrest.

“To say it is inaccurate is really a disservice to the community because that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to put forward accurate, truthful statements because what we’re charged with is taking away the most highly held right that we have — a person’s freedom,” said Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski in the finding. “And so we have to be truthful. We have to be honest.”

The cost for a new review in the case cost a little more than $9,000. The union will have to pay the entire bill because Edwards lost his case, according to the finding.

Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.