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Ex-Warren police official's wrongful discharge suit tossed

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Warren — A wrongful discharge lawsuit filed against the city of Warren by a veteran police officer has been dismissed in U.S. District Court.

Former Warren deputy police commissioner Matthew Nichols was fired in June 2019 following an investigation into an incident in which other officers saw Nichols punch a shoplifting suspect who was in custody.

Deputy Police Commissioner Matthew Nichols in 2008.

Nichols, a 19-year veteran of the department and its second-in-command, was placed on leave after the incident and filed a lawsuit claiming he had been deprived of due process. The complaint never made it to trial and was assigned to Judge Mark Goldsmith, who granted the city’s request to dismiss the claim on the grounds that it lacked merit.

“We’re surprised and haven’t got over the shock (of dismissal) yet,” said Jamil Akhtar, Nichols’ attorney. “We believe the court made some mistakes and will be filing a motion for reconsideration within 14 days on a couple issues. We will also be discussing tonight the possibility of an appeal.”

Nichols’ lawsuit had sought reinstatement to his former $127,000-a-year job or as a lieutenant and more than $100,000 in damages from the city.

Rachel Badalamenti, attorney for the city, said Goldsmith's ruling was appropriate.

“Due process was never violated by the city,” she said. “He (Nichols) said he should have been exempted for any departmental discipline and the city’s mayor was the only one who could decide his fate.

“This shows everyone in the police department has to abide by the same rules of conduct — whether you are the No. 2 command officer or a road patrolman. Your conduct has to be the same and there are consequences.”

Nichols showed up outside a Lowe's store where officers had taken a shoplifting suspect into custody. For unknown reasons, Nichols punched the 56-year-old suspect in the throat, officers later reported. Other officers present denied seeing any excessive force by Nichols.

The matter was investigated by two outside police agencies; the Macomb County prosecutor denied a criminal warrant request for aggravated assault from the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office.

Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer said Thursday: “As police commissioner, I was not going to tolerate excessive force by any officer, let alone a deputy commissioner. It was very alarming to see a high-ranking official, who is supposed setting a positive example for officers, to take that kind of action.”

Dwyer said an investigation did not reveal what prompted Nichols to strike the suspect, who was not resisting arrest nor attempting to flee officers.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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