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City ordered to put booted APD officer back on force

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Beating a man found sleeping at an East Austin bus stop last year cost APD officer Gary Griffin his job.

A police dash cam video of the July 2006 incident is what then-acting Austin Police Chief Cathy Ellison used to make her decision to kick Griffin off the force nearly six months later for using excessive force.

Griffin appealed that decision. It has taken about a year for the arbitration process, but he won.

"Gary Griffin is ready to go back to work, and that's what he's looking for," Griffin's attorney Tom Stribling said.

That doesn't sit well with the family of Joseph Cruz, the man being punched and kicked on the video while others restrained him. Cruz was asleep at an East Austin bus stop when Griffin tried to wake him.

"He's scared of everything now. He's different. He's not the son I knew before," Cruz' mother Nora Tijerina said.

That's why the Texas Civil Rights Project and its attorneys got involved. They represent Cruz and filed a federal civil lawsuit against Griffin in June.

"We really thought that Officer Griffin would be off the streets, that he wouldn't be a danger to folks. We're talking about an officer who created a dangerous situation and is likely to do it again," attorney Wayne Krause said.

Griffin has to get clearance from a psychiatrist before he can hit the streets again. He may also have to undergo retraining and sensitivity therapy. City administrators aren't sure what they will do before that happens.

"It's very important to note that the hearings officer did uphold the excessive use of force claim in this case. At this time all options are being explored, and those discussions will continue," City of Austin spokesperson Gene Acuna said.

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