By Jennifer Gomori, MAP Editor

A Melvindale Police Officer was awarded back pay and benefits and all references to discipline were removed from his employment file after Michigan Association of Police (MAP) filed a grievance on his behalf and won.

The Grievant, another Melvindale Officer he was training, and a Sergeant responded to a domestic disturbance call Feb. 1, 2019 involving an intoxicated man arguing with a homeowner inside a Clarann Avenue residence. After some discussion, officers encouraged the intoxicated man to return to his bedroom in the home’s basement and sleep it off, but the man did not comply.

Initially, officers decided to administer a PBT test to determine if the level of alcohol in his system required a hospital transport. The man refused to cooperate. With the Sergeant’s help, Grievant attempted to administer the test three times, but due to the man’s shortness of breath, those attempts were unsuccessful.

The homeowner asked to have the man removed, but the Grievant told the homeowner police have no jurisdiction to evict him and he should go to court to get an eviction order. Officers asked the intoxicated man to leave voluntarily and he asked to go his girlfriend’s home. However, police refused transport when the homeowner said the man was at her home earlier that day and police were called. Officers offered to take him to a motel, but he said he had no money.

During the response, the intoxicated person wound up falling down the stairs. Grievant was talking to the officer in training and did not see what transpired. He witnessed the man get up from the bottom of the stairs and walk to his bed while awaiting arrival of the ambulance.

On audio from the Grievant’s body camera, Grievant can be heard telling the intoxicated man he was right behind him and he slipped and fell. Despite the man’s claim of a broken back, video showed ambulance personnel lifting him to his feet before taking him to the hospital.

Following an investigatory hearing in March, Grievant was charged with misconduct for using profane language when speaking to the suspect, and when asked for his name, saying officers’ names were written on their uniforms. He was also charged with making a false statement because he did not see the fall, yet he told the suspect that he “slipped and fell.”

Grievant received a written reprimand for the profane language and was instructed by the Chief to always give his name when asked, which sounds like an instruction or possible oral warning. He was suspended 20 days without pay for making a false statement. In response, he forfeited 10 days of Vacation, five days of Personal Time and served five days of the suspension.

MAP filed a grievance, asserting the discipline was without just cause, excessive, unfair and unreasonable. The Union asked for Grievant to be made whole for lost wages and have all record of the incident removed from his personnel file. The Chief denied the grievance.

During the arbitration hearing, Grievant said he made the statement about slipping and falling. The Arbitrator noted the claim of a false statement was not in response to a question being asked by a supervisor or Internal Affairs nor was it made in a police report or to a prosecutor or court. The statement was made in the heat of dealing with an intoxicated man while the Grievant had the responsibility of monitoring a new officer.

Compared to other disciplinary action taken by the department, the Chief acknowledged no other suspensions issued for untruthfulness involved statements made to intoxicated citizens who appeared they may have difficulty navigating stairs.

“The Department … has not established by clear and convincing evidence that (the Officer) in the statements he made, as recorded on his body microphone which he was wearing at the time, was intentionally engaging in making false statements,” the Arbitrator said. “Not only could he be considered as using language of control with a citizen, but his statements were based upon (his) perception at the time.”

The Arbitrator noted the dire impact these allegations can have on an Officer. “… an officer who is disciplined for a false statement could possibly have limits as a witness which could affect an Officer’s career, thereby emphasizing the need for clear and convincing proofs that false statements were made which were lacking, for the reasons stated, in this case,” the Arbitrator said.

The Arbitrator granted the grievance, set aside the 20-day suspension and made the Grievant whole for his lost wages, Vacation and Personal time.