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COA affirms Evansville police officer’s firing for grabbing teen’s crotch

April 15, 2015

A longtime Evansville police officer who was fired for rule violations after he grabbed a teen’s crotch at a school where the officer also worked as a security officer lost the appeal of his termination before the Indiana Court of Appeals Wednesday.

Cpl. Mike Winters, a 30-year veteran of the Evansville Police Department, grabbed 16-year-old Z.P. in an attempt to teach him about the dangers of fighting. The student’s family did not press charges but did file an internal affairs complaint against Winters. EPD Chief Billy Bolin found Winters committed eight EPD rule violations, suspended him for 21 days, and then recommended he be terminated from the EPD.

Winters appealed to the Evansville Police Merit Commission, which found he violated seven rules and affirmed the suspension and voted to terminate Winters’ employment. He appealed by filing a complaint against the city in trial court, and the judge granted the city’s motion for summary judgment.

In Mike Winters v. City of Evansville, 82A01-1409-CT-378, Winters contended that the commission’s decision was arbitrary and capricious, claiming that Bolin’s motivation to seek termination was improper; the two commissioners who voted to suspend and terminate him improperly based their decision on matters outside the record; and the punishment is disproportionate to the conduct.

The judges upheld summary judgment in favor of the city, finding that the police chief’s motivation to seek Winters’ termination was irrelevant because the chief did not participate in the ultimate disciplinary decision-making. The commissioners did not base their decision on improper considerations as Winters alleged, referring to statements from two commission members regarding the treatment of children at the school where Winters worked and the impropriety of the conduct in most circumstances.

Finally, the decision to fire Winters for grabbing the teen’s crotch is supported by substantial evidence and is not arbitrary and capricious, the COA held.  

 

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