CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Cleveland City Council is attempting to save the career of Lt. Steve Tyson, a 27-year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department, after listening to supporters of the officer in a standing-room-only meeting.
Tyson was recently fired after an internal affairs investigation determined that he had violated three of the police department’s alcohol and drug policies.
On Monday, the Cleveland City Council voted 6-0 to offer Tyson the chance to take back his job if he agrees not to pursue litigation against the city, in accordance with a motion made by Councilman Richard Banks.
Banks argued that city and departmental policies that date back to the 1990s were flawed if they did take “mitigating factors” — such as the ones involved in Tyson’s case — into account.
Family, friends and coworkers spoke on Tyson’s behalf for an hour, describing that his only mistake was to take one of his son’s prescription pain killers to relieve aches caused by a kidney stone.
That one pill was taken the evening before he went on duty the following morning and he was fully capable of performing his duties that day, they said.
Tyson tested positive on a random drug test and was relieved of duty on July 2, according to the Cleveland Police Department.
On Aug. 15, the Cleveland Police Department announced that an internal affairs investigation determined that Tyson had violated three Class A policies regarding the use of prescribed or over-the-counter drugs while on duty or training, reporting for duty or on duty while intoxicated and the commission of a misdemeanor.
All three offenses result in termination, which was recommended by the department to City Manager Janice Casteel, said Evie West, public information officer of the Cleveland Police Department.
Tyson was fired on Aug. 18, but has an appeal scheduled for Aug. 29.
Laney Nelson, his daughter, read a statement from her mother, Jill Tyson, to the Cleveland City Council.
“It is our family’s humble opinion and the opinion of many of Steve’s colleagues and friends, that there is no indication from the past 27 years or from the investigation that could substantiate a claim that termination would be best for any of the stakeholders,” said Tyson’s statement.
Several people also expressed anger regarding how the police department news release and subsequent media coverage have impacted the officer’s reputation.
Banks cited concerns regarding possible litigation costs to city taxpayers if Tyson takes legal recourse regarding possible health privacy violations caused by the police department announcement.
Regardless, it is still against the law to take someone else’s prescription medicine, said City Attorney John Kimball.
Police Chief David Bishop said he could not comment on the situation, pending the appeal process.
The Tysons could not be reached for comment Monday evening.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.