Thursday, March 24, 2005

Officer Joanne Buiwitt-Shafer - Sentenced - Ann Arbor PD

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Officer Joanne Buiwitt-Shafer arrested for domestic violence

Fired officer placed on probation for domestic assault
Kalamazoo County jury finds her guilty of attacking boyfriend
Saturday, March 26, 2005

A fired Ann Arbor police officer has been placed on 12 months probation by a Kalamazoo County judge for aggravated domestic assault in the criminal case that led to her termination.

Joanne Buiwitt-Shafer, 39, was also ordered to pay a fine and court costs of $795 after being convicted by a jury Thursday of assaulting her boyfriend following a confrontation at a bar in Vicksburg, near Kalamazoo. The 17-year veteran officer was fired from the Ann Arbor Police Department following an internal investigation into the Nov. 14 incident.

A related charge of larceny less than $200 against Buiwitt-Shafer was dropped earlier after the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office determined that charge didn't fit the case. She was accused in that charge of taking the cell phone from the boyfriend that she was convicted of beating.

According to police reports of the incident, Buiwitt-Shafer and a 48-year-old man identified as her boyfriend were at the Hide-Away Bar when he became upset with her and left. He told police she found him, tried to get him into her car and then began punching and kicking him while dragging him toward the car, the reports said.

Buiwitt-Shafer said Friday that she is appealing the verdict. She told The News in January that the police reports contained inaccurate information, but declined to comment further about the decision or her testimony in court.

A witness told police that he was across the railroad tracks from the parking lot and saw a person lying on the ground and someone above that person kicking and punching him, reports said. The witness said he yelled at them to stop fighting, then ran to Buiwitt-Shafer's car, grabbed the keys to prevent her from leaving before police arrived, and went to a nearby party store to call 911, reports said.

Reports said that Buiwitt-Shafer yelled that the witness who was holding her keys had gotten into her car and stolen the keys and her purse. The witness was handcuffed for a short time and placed in a police cruiser after Buiwitt-Shafer accused him of stealing her purse, reports said.

Authorities said in January that they believed the witness had not taken Buiwitt-Shafer's purse, and that she made the claims to divert attention from the assault.

Kalamazoo County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Carrie Klein said Buiwitt-Shafer admitted on the stand that she lied when she said the witness had taken her purse.

"This case says something important about domestic violence - that it does not matter who you are or what your occupation is, domestic violence is not appropriate," Klein said.

Ann Arbor Police Chief Daniel Oates called the incident a sad chapter in the department's history and said the department took swift action.

"We hold our officers to a very high standard in their on- and off-duty conduct," Oates said. "This incident showed she was not worthy of being a member of our department."

Aggravated domestic violence, which requires a serious or aggravated injury less than great bodily harm, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

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