PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A former Portland Police officer fired from the force, has been reinstated. Brian Hunzeker will soon return as an officer with the Portland Police Bureau after an arbitrator appointed by the State Labor Board decided to reinstate him.

“This was a case where we felt like it was important that the evidence drive the outcome,” said Aaron Schmautz, president of the Portland Police Association.

Hunzeker’s trouble started in March 2021 after an investigation linked him to a false report wrongly naming then-commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty as a hit-and-run crash suspect.

“I wasn’t driving, no one drove my car, and this allegation is totally false,” Hardesty told KOIN 6 in March 2021. Hardesty proceeded to file a $5 million lawsuit against the City of Portland and Hunzeker, which is still in the courts.

Nearly a year after the incident, his termination was signed off by PPB Chief Chuck Lovell and Mayor Ted Wheeler. The mayor says Hunzeker accessed confidential information and shared it with a news outlet, violating policy.

“On behalf of the bureau, I want to apologize to Commissioner Hardesty for Officer Hunzeker’s actions,” Mayor Wheeler told KOIN 6 in March 2022.

Today, following the arbitrator’s decision, Mayor Wheeler issued a statement, saying, “While I stand behind my decision in this case, I respect the legal process. Meaningful accountability can take many forms, even when it may not look exactly the way we initially envisioned it. It is my sincere hope that we can all come together and find ways to bring healing for the harm caused and unity in ensuring it never happens again.”

Hunzeker previously served as president of the Portland Police Association. Schmautz, the current president, says while there needs to be accountability for mistakes, they also believe there need to be more discipline options than just full termination or no punishment at all.

“Accountability does not equal that 100% of the time that person gets terminated,” said Schmautz. “This was a case where we felt like it was important that the evidence drive the outcome.”

KOIN 6 asked Schmautz what needs to be done to keep community trust in the police force when terminated officers are reinstated.

“When it is an all or nothing approach, we either terminate people or nothing, that kind of approach creates these kinds of trust issues because when that termination is then overturned, people will view that as some sort of wrong that’s been done when, in reality, if we have systems that are fair, we have systems that consider all the evidence and consider a fair outcome, people can feel more confident that when that discipline is carried out, that we’ll support that,” said Schmautz. “We will stand alongside those folks and the city government and say yes that person made a mistake and we can stand by that discipline.”

It’s unclear if the arbitrator’s one-workweek unpaid suspension is effective immediately or when exactly Hunzeker will be back full-time. KOIN 6 reached out to Hardesty about his reinstatement but has not heard back.