Stephen Mader, a former police officer in Weirton, W.Va, was fired without severance because he decided not to shoot Ronald D. "R.J." Williams Jr, who had threatened to kill himself and was holding a gun that turned out to be unloaded.
Mader, a Marine Corps veteran, says that he assessed the situation and decided that Williams was not a threat to him or others, so the officer used his "stay calm voice" and tried to defuse the situation: when Williams said, "Just shoot me," he replied, "I'm not going to shoot you brother." Then two other cops showed up and shot the man dead. His gun was unloaded.
One month, the Weirton police department fired Mader, after telling him that he'd "put two other officers in danger." Because he was a probationary, "at-will" employee of the police force, he was denied any severance or pension.
The obvious contrast here is with the cops who murder unarmed people, even children, and are given short administrative leaves before being welcomed back on the force with full benefits — or, if they're terminated, simply walk one town down the road and get a new job in law enforcement.
America's police forces have no trouble summarily firing cops who de-escalate and avoid needless killing, but are institutionally incapable of doing anything about sociopathic murderers with badges.
After he received his termination notice, Mr. Mader sought attorneys to help him fight the city. He was told because he was still a probationary employee in an "at-will" state, he could be fired for any reason and there was no point in fighting the city.
One attorney told him the best he could hope for was to ask to resign instead of being terminated.
"But I told [the attorney] 'Look, I don't want to admit guilt. I'll take the termination instead of the resignation because I didn't do anything wrong,' " Mr. Mader said. "To resign and admit I did something wrong here would have ate at me. I think I'm right in what I did. I'll take it to the grave."
Weirton terminates officer who did not fire at man with gun
[Sean D. Hamill/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
West Virginia cop fired for not killing a man with an unloaded gun
[Radley Balko/Washington Post]