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Police Merit Commission may discipline former assistant chief

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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.

 

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  • 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!

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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