A Philadelphia narcotics officer who was fired for falsifying an arrest warrant and having a business relationship with an informant will return to the force on an arbitrator's recommendation, Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said Thursday.
Jeffrey Cujdik will get his job back but will not return to the narcotics unit and will not collect back pay, Ramsey said.
Cujdik contested his May 2014 firing and, backed by the police union, sought a return to the force.
At a hearing Wednesday on Cujdik's bid to be reinstated, an arbitrator heard arguments from the city and union representatives, and then recommended that Cujdik return to the force, but not to his old unit and not with back pay, Ramsey said.
The commissioner said a lawyer for the city advised him to accept the recommendation.
If the arbitration proceeding had continued and the department lost, Ramsey said, Cujdik could have been returned to the narcotics squad and awarded back pay, lost overtime, and other compensation.
"This is the probably the best outcome we could get, based on what the arbitrator heard," Ramsey said. "It could have come out a whole lot worse."
Through a separate arbitration proceeding, Cujdik has already received $123,500 in lost overtime prior to his firing - $66,300 after taxes, Ramsey said.
"I'm disappointed," the commissioner said. "I thought there was just cause for termination." But he said he understood the challenges posed by Cujdik's bid to return to the force.
Cujdik and three other officers on his narcotics squad were the focus of a joint federal and local investigation, launched in December 2008, into allegations that the squad had falsified warrants and robbed bodegas during drug raids. The officers were also the subject of a 2009 series in the Philadelphia Daily News called "Tainted Justice," which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.
In April, The Inquirer reported that Cujdik and members of his squad would not face criminal charges.
One member of Cujdik's squad, Thomas Tolstoy, was accused of sexual assault by three women. After a lengthy FBI investigation, a grand jury declined to recommend prosecution.
While investigating claims of falsified warrants, FBI investigators interviewed 10 informants who said their recollections of drug investigations did not always match what Cujdik and his squad wrote on their warrants.
But none of those informants wanted to testify against the squad in court, and only one of their stories could be corroborated by other witnesses.
Cujdik was also accused of allowing an informant to rent a house from him. Fraternal Order of Police lawyer Thomas Jennings said Cujdik was wrong to do so, but the offense was not grounds for dismissal.
Cujdik and the other accused officers were pulled from the street in 2009 amid coverage of their alleged criminal behavior. For five years, they worked desk duty - until the U.S. Attorney's Office and, subsequently, the District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute them.
Only Tolstoy's case is still open, Ramsey said. He is still on desk duty.
At the arbitration proceeding, Jennings said he argued that the witnesses against Cujdik were not credible because they were informants with a history of criminal behavior.
He said the case against Cujdik also was weakened by the fact that federal and local prosecutors had declined to charge him with any crimes, he said.
Cujdik was the only officer on the squad to be fired from the force. The other three officers were suspended and transferred from the narcotics unit, and a supervisor was suspended.
John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, said Thursday that he expected Cujdik to be "fully returned shortly."