City of Owasso sued over suspension of defensive-tactics program
BY DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
11/26/12 at 4:35 PM
The city of Owasso has been sued by three men who claim to have suffered financial losses and humiliation as a result of the suspension of the Owasso Police Department's defensive tactics program.
Jarod Mitchell, Darryl Jones and Lem Mutii state that as the department's defensive tactics instructors, they were responsible for teaching Owasso's police officers, including Lt. Mike Denton, such skills.
The city has released police videos in which Denton can be seen stepping on the head, stretching the handcuffed arms and appearing to elbow the face of a Collinsville man who was arrested on a public intoxication complaint on June 30, 2011.
Denton was fired in November because his actions violated the Police Department's policy on use of force, according to the city.
However, arbitrator Edward Valverde ruled in June that Denton should be reinstated, saying that although the officer used unreasonable and unnecessary force, his actions "did not rise to the level of excessive force within the meaning of existing case law."
Valverde reduced the discipline from firing to a written reprimand and ordered the city to reinstate Denton with back pay and benefits.
The lawsuit filed by Mitchell, Jones and Mutii says that after the arbitration hearing was concluded in late March, Owasso Police Chief Dan Yancey - also named as a defendant in the new civil suit - suspended the defensive tactics program.
The three claim that the move "effectively" removed them from their positions as defensive tactics instructors for the Owasso Police Department.
The three allege that they have been retaliated against because of their "public employee union activities" and because of their testimony at the March arbitration hearing.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs say that "the arbitrator agreed with the plaintiffs' testimony that Denton had not used 'elbow strikes' as that term is understood by police officers."
Their attorney, James Patrick Hunt, said Tuesday evening that Mitchell and Jones are still with the Owasso Police Department but that Mutii has resigned.
Instead of allowing Denton to rejoin the force, the city filed a lawsuit July 16 in Tulsa County District Court challenging Valverde's reinstatement order.
Valverde's decision did not comply with the law or a collective-bargaining agreement, the city claims in its lawsuit.
Original Print Headline: Owasso sued over ending defensive-tactics program
David Harper 918-581-8359
A frame from the video of Lt. Mike Denton during the June 30, 2011, arrest of Bryan Scott Spradlin.
Lt. Mike Denton: An arbitrator ordered him reinstated, but the city is suing to stop it