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Fired West Reading officers get jobs back

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Sep 12 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Nov 15 2012 01:03:51 PM CST

Two West Reading Police officers who were fired for allegedly using tasers have gotten their jobs back.

WEST READING, Pa. -

Two West Reading police officers who were fired for allegedly using Tasers have gotten their jobs back.

This comes on the heels of news the police chief and another officer are on paid leave because of an investigation into a fight between them.

Tasers or stun guns are one of the tools officers can use for their jobs, but according to court documents, Sgt. Matthew Beigley admitted to using his Taser on his friends, fellow officers and his dad.

Officials said two other officers, Sgt. Ryan Phillips and Ofc. Nicholas Karetas, also admitted to using a Taser at a Halloween Party in October 2010.

The borough of West Reading investigated and fired the three men in January 2012 and suspended Ofc. Matthew Nguyen for not reporting the incident.

On Tuesday an arbitrator overturned that suspension and ruled that there was proper cause to terminate Beighley. As for the other two officers:

"The arbitrator wrote in his decision that he felt the termination was too harsh," said Joe Brown.

Brown is a detective for the West Reading Police Department. He stressed his comments about this case are being made as president of the Berks County Fraternal Order of Police. He said the ruling was fair and it is binding.

He said Phillips' and Karetas' penalty is a 120-working day suspension with no back pay. Nguyen will be paid for time missed. Brown said the borough should publicly apologize to Nguyen.

Brown said the department currently has 12 full-time officers and five part-timers, but he understands the public might have concerns.

"As far as a trust issue goes and it's like anything else, it's going to take time to rebuild that trust with the community," said Brown.

Because this is a personnel matter, the borough council and the mayor did not want to be interviewed.

West Reading Mayor Shane Keller sent a statement about the ruling. In it, he said, "Having reviewed the arbitrator’s opinion, as the Mayor of West Reading I remain very disappointed in the conduct exhibited by these police officers and regret that the circumstances have drawn so much media attention.

Since I have not yet had an opportunity to discuss the opinion with Borough Council, I will not comment on the arbitrator’s conclusions at this time. However, I will state that I am pleased that the arbitrator recognized that the Borough acted appropriately by launching an internal affairs investigation and taking prompt disciplinary action.

I remain hopeful that the public will understand that isolated misdeeds committed by a few police officers are not reflective of the hard working officers who have and will continue to serve and protect our community.

As this remains a personnel issue and legally not an issue for public disclosure, I will refrain from offering additional comment at this time."