Woman: Hazel Park officer spied on me with seized phone

James David Dickson, and Candice Williams

A veteran Hazel Park police officer is facing a federal lawsuit from a woman who says she was spied on after her fiance’s cellphone was seized by authorities.

Megan Pearce, a dispatcher for the Warren Police Department, filed the suit Tuesday against Michael Emmi, a 15-year veteran of Hazel Park’s police force.

During a news conference Wednesday at her attorneys’ office, Pearce said she was “shocked, devastated and sad.”

“This is very difficult to make these accusations against someone that’s also a fellow law enforcement member,” she said. “It’s very difficult. However, this is such a serious violation of my family’s privacy, including myself and my son. It is absolutely necessary to take this action to prevent this from happening to any future individuals.”

In her suit, Pearce alleges Emmi used the phone and a baby-monitoring device to spy on her three times, once when she was cleaning the nursery after police searched her home and two other times while she was naked and nursing her infant son after she got out of the bathtub.

According to the lawsuit, Pearce’s fiance was arrested on marijuana charges at about 2 p.m. March 2, despite having a card allowing him to serve as a caregiver under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program.

Hazel Park police and the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team “executed search warrants on several locations related to marijuana allegations against (the fiance) and arrested him,” according to the suit.

Though the couple lives in New Baltimore, one of the locations searched was a workshop at 1638 Nine Mile in Hazel Park, where Emmi took the fiance’s phone, according to the suit. Emmi and police also searched the couple’s home, the suit claims.

After the police search, Pearce began cleaning the nursery room, which had been left in “total disarray.” She noticed the light flashing on her Nest Cam baby monitor. According to the suit, her fiance’s phone showed data usage at a cell tower near Emmi’s home in Macomb.

The next day, Pearce noticed the green light flashing on her Nest Cam in her nursery, where she breastfeeds her son. The Nest Cam sends alerts to connected devices when there is movement in the room.

The complaint says only three devices were connected to the camera, which sends notifications when a connected device accesses it. Those devices were Pearce’s iPhone, her iPad and the fiance’s iPhone. But her phone was off and the iPad wasn’t monitoring the Nest Cam, the lawsuit alleges.

After using a “Find My iPhone” search, Pearce discovered the fiance’s phone traced back to Emmi’s residence, the complaint says.

According to the suit, Pearce tried to and thought she had successfully disabled monitoring from the iPhone. However, the light began flashing on the Nest Cam again when Pearce was nursing her son after his evening bath, the suit says.

Pearce, who was speaking with her brother on the phone at the time, yelled that someone was watching her again, according to the suit. The light on the camera, which also has audio capability, then shut off.

Police Chief Martin Barner, a 22-year veteran of the force, describes Emmi’s service as “exemplary” and told The Detroit News there has been no change in his working status.

Barner says he has spoken with Emmi about the matter, but told The News “it’s tough to comment when you haven’t been served anything. I want to see what everybody’s talking about.”

The lawsuit only lists Emmi “in his individual capacity” as a defendant and does not name the Hazel Park Police Department.

One of Pearce’s attorneys, Kevin Ernst, said a lawsuit could also be brought against the Police Department as the investigation continues.

“(Emmi) is probably not acting alone if he got the cellphone out of the crime lab,” Ernst said adding there could be a systemic problem in the police department that would “turn a blind eye and allow him to take a piece of evidence.”