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BOP Prison Guard's 30 Day Suspension for Biting Inmate Reversed in Arbitration

By Christopher Zoukis

The 30-day suspension of Kenneth O. Davis for biting a prisoner was overturned by federal arbitrator Michael L. Allen on December 12, 2002.

Davis, a senior officer specialist (prison guard), was working in the Tennessee unit of Federal Correctional Institution Memphis on September 20, 2000, when the incident occurred. According to the initial report by the Bureau of Prisons, unsavory references to the marital fidelity of Davis' wife (Karen F. Davis) were made by some prisoners during count. When one prisoner, Steven Thomas, refused to provide his name and number, Davis approached him, whereupon Thomas said "You got the right m***erf**ker" and assumed an aggressive stance. Davis and prison guards Tommy Davis, Jr., and Donald Dickman proceeded to beat Thomas to the floor.

Immediately following the incident, prisoner Thomas was overheard saying "that m***er f**ker bit me," while pointing at Davis. Subsequent medical examination revealed that the prisoner had indeed been bitten on the chest. Davis denied ever biting Thomas.

After an investigation, Bureau of Prisons management charged Davis with violation of the Standards of Employee Conduct, which prohibit the use of "brutality, physical violence, or intimidation" towards inmates. Those standards also prohibit making a false statement. Davis was sanctioned with a 30 day suspension for both violations.

Arbitrator Allen overturned the suspension, finding that the Bureau of Prisons did not possess "just and sufficient cause" as required by Article 30 of the Master Agreement, between the BOP and the prison guard union, the Council of Prison Locals-American Federation of Government Employees, to take the controverted action against Davis. Specifically, the arbitrator did not find that the preponderance of the evidence demonstrated that Davis actually bit the prisoner. Moreover, the arbitrator noted that if the evidence did not support a finding that Davis bit Thomas, it could not support a finding that he made a false statement by denying biting him.

Davis' suspension was reversed, and the arbitrator ordered that he be "made whole for all losses during his suspension" including pay and benefits.

The documents from this case were obtained by Prison Legal News after prevailing in a 12-year court battle with the Bureau of Prisons over a Freedom of Information Act records request.

Source:  Federal Arbitration FMCS Case No. 01-14642.

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