ILNews

Police Merit Commission may discipline former assistant chief

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A former assistant police chief of the City of Greenwood who was demoted to lieutenant may be disciplined by the city’s Police Merit Commission, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday. The officer argued that based on ordinances and codes, only the mayor could discipline police chiefs or assistant chiefs.

David R. Mertz was assistant police chief of the Greenwood Police Department when he was lead investigator on a case looking into alleged misconduct by Officer Nicholas Dine. The mayor, who has the authority to appoint the police chief and assistant chief, terminated the police chief and demoted Mertz to the rank of lieutenant, which he held prior to serving as assistant chief.

A review board looked into Mertz’s conduct related to the investigation of the officer and the police chief filed three disciplinary charges against Mertz with the commission. Mertz argued the commission couldn’t pursue disciplinary charges because the conduct that the charges were based on happened when he was assistant police chief. Greenwood ordinance and municipal code say the commission may take disciplinary action against any officer except the chief or assistant chief. 

The commission ordered Mertz suspended without pay for 10 days after finding he committed actions to delay or manipulate the disciplinary proceedings against Dine.

The trial court denied Mertz’s petition for review, finding that once he was removed as assistant chief, the commission had the authority to consider disciplinary action against him.

In David R. Mertz v. City of Greenwood, Indiana, 41A01-1206-MI-286, the appellate judges held that while the police chief and assistant chief serve at the pleasure of the mayor, they remain police officers subject to the same professional standards as other officers.

“And, at the time of his disciplinary proceedings, Mertz was neither a chief nor assistant chief of police, and the Commission applied the statute, ordinances, and department rules and regulations that were in effect at the time of his conduct. Mertz proposes that we interpret the municipal code and ordinance to prohibit any discipline by the Commission for misconduct by a chief or assistant chief of police. But such an interpretation is untenable because it would undermine the entire command structure,” Judge Edward Najam wrote.

The judges also pointed out that the language in the code says the exception is for “the chief or assistant chief of police,” and makes no mention of former chiefs or assistant chiefs.

“Thus, we hold that the exception is not absolute but suspends the Commission’s authority to discipline an officer while he holds the appointment as chief or assistant chief. Once the mayor has terminated the appointment or the appointment otherwise ends, the purpose of the exception no longer exists, and the exception no longer applies,” he wrote.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Manipulation
    Demoting officer Mertz, then punishing him for what he did when he was acting chief is no different that ex post facto law. You cannot pass a law after the fact to make an already comitted act a crime. Therefore you cannot demote a man from a rank that no one but the mayor can discipline, so that someone else can mete out the punishment. The court of appeals needs to get their heads screwed on straight. You can't explain one law or one rule 10 different ways, so the result will be what you want it to be! If the law states that it is illegal to walk bacwards when crossing a highway, you can't say that same law makes it illegal to walk forward across the highway! They must pick names out of a hat to appoint judges to the court of appeals!

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

ADVERTISEMENT