Michigan Medicine Security Officer Fired for Excessive Use of Force

The officer had been placed on paid administrative leave three times, once for violating the university’s policy on drinking and driving.
Published: July 21, 2020

A security officer for the University of Michigan’s hospital system has been terminated after a probe into an incident of excessive use of force.

Steven Craig Oatten, a 32-year-old officer for Michigan Medicine’s Department of Public Safety and Security (DPSS), had been placed on his third paid administrative leave in late June for violating the university’s use of force policy, reports MLive.

In a July 7 email, university officials announced Oatten, who had been a DPSS employee since 2014, was no longer employed by the university following a weeks-long internal investigation.

Oatten has filed a grievance for his termination, according to Wayne Beerbower, his representative from the Police Officers Association of Michigan.

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“We will go to arbitration to get his job back,” he said.

According to a collective bargaining agreement between the university and the police union, firing a university public safety officer requires “any (known or should have been known) violation of a rule, or regulation, or requirement, whether or not written, by an employee, (or) off-duty behavior which adversely affects the university as a public employer or educational institution.”

Back in February, Oatten was placed on administrative leave for violating the university’s policy on drinking and driving, said spokeswoman Heather Young.

Oatten pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of over 0.17% — more than twice the legal limit — on Dec. 20, 2019, according to MLive. He paid a fine and was placed on probation for six months, which was set to end on Aug. 20, 2020.

He was placed on administrative leave for the first time more than two years ago following a separate incident. However, the collective bargaining agreement has a policy against considering incidents more than two years old when determining discipline against an officer.

Amidst the fight against racial injustice and police brutality in America, many campuses have made changes to use of force training requirements for officers, including the University of Michigan. According to DPSS’ website, its policies and procedures have been updated to align with the Police Use of Force Project’s recommended changes that protect against police violence, including banning chokeholds and requiring the use of de-escalation techniques whenever possible.

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