Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Officer Steve Martinez - Terminated - Muskegon PD

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Officer Steve Martinez arrested for domestic violence

Cop charged in assault fired from city position
Thursday, November 11, 2004
By Lisa Medendorp

A 32-year-old Muskegon police officer who entered a not guilty plea last week to a domestic violence charge was fired Wednesday.

Steve Martinez, who had nine years on the force, was "terminated" after Director of Public Safety Tony Kleibecker said he reviewed his department's internal affairs report.

Martinez was arraigned Nov. 2 in 60th District Court on the misdemeanor assault charge. He is charged with assaulting his girlfriend on Oct. 30 at the apartment they shared at 750 W. Grand Avenue and had been suspended without pay since the incident.

Kleibecker said earlier that the department's internal investigation of the incident was separate from the criminal case. The internal affairs report was turned over to Kleibecker Nov. 4.

"This type of behavior will not be tolerated," Kleibecker said. "By engaging in this misconduct, he has forfeited the privilege of serving our community as a police officer."

Kleibecker also said Martinez has not had any disciplinary action taken against him during the 41/2 years Kleibecker has headed the police department.

Officer Michael Addicott, local president of the Police Officers Labor Council, said a grievance will be filed by the union on Martinez's termination within the next 12 days. "We will file the grievance with the understanding that any possible arbitration has to be after the criminal matter is resolved," he said.

Kleibecker said there was no need to wait for the court case to conclude before taking action agaist Martinez because of the information that was uncovered during the internal investigation. He declined to discuss specifics of what the internal investigation found.

"For the internal review, I have to take into consideration the facts that we've put together through our investigation, look at the totality of the circumstances and make a decision based upon that," Kleibecker said. "For me, there's not a legal requirement of a certain level of proof necessary."

Addicott said Martinez denies the allegations and wants to continue to be a Muskegon police officer. "In the grievance, the request will be for his return to the position of police officer, that he receive any money lost and all benefits, and that the matter be expunged from his personnel file."

Martinez was fired following a hearing Wednesday morning, during which his attorney, David Shafer, was present. Shafer said he was aware of alleged reasons for Martinez's termination, and that he found it "embarrassing that the chief law enforcement officer for the city of Muskegon sits as the judge, jury and executioner on a case that's never been decided in a court of law."

Shafer, who has represented other Muskegon officers who were disciplined by the department, added: "It's no secret that morale is at an all-time low among the road patrol officers."

The attorney said the current administration at the department was "either on a house-cleaning mission or has very little concern for the rights of officers."

Shafer said one of the main reasons for Martinez's termination was because department officials believed he was dishonest in answering questions as to whether somebody leaked information to him from a department report prior to his statement to internal affairs.

"This is not true," Shafer said. "I've been involved in a number of cases both representing police officers and pursuing officers for misconduct. In this particular case, the (internal) investigation and termination occurred much more swiftly than in any of those cases," Shafer said.

Martinez remains free on $300 bond.

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