An inmate in the Isabella County Jail was anxious to receive his free telephone card because he wished to talk to his mother. When the inmate did not receive his card as quickly as he had hoped, he followed the Corrections Officer (CO) out of his cell and positioned himself in the doorway so the cell door could not be closed. The inmate was ordered to return to his cell, refused several more times, all the while demanding his phone card. The CO then asked the senior CO on the shift for assistance, who arrived on the scene with an additional officer. The senior CO informed the inmate that he would be put into the cell forcibly if he did not cooperate. The inmate still refused and was then pushed into the cell where a short struggle ensued and the inmate was eventually handcuffed and removed. The inmate was shoved against the wall so that both CO’s could get on either side of him to walk him to the maximum security cell where he was placed while still handcuffed.

The senior CO then reported this incident to his shift commander and they both watched the videos that were made by the jail’s security cameras. The sergeant informed the officer that he should have removed the handcuffs from the inmate when placing him in the maximum security cell but she declined any form of discipline.

Several days later the inmate was in court and his mother noticed abrasions on his neck. Hearing her son’s version, “mommy” made a formal complaint to the State Police. The State Police then informed Sheriff Mioduszewski, who then ordered an internal investigation to be conducted by his undersheriff. The undersheriff’s report indicated the use of excessive force. The sheriff accepted the undersheriff’s report and terminated the officer’s employment. POAM filed a grievance citing a violation of the “just cause” provision of the collective bargaining agreement.

POAM President and Isabella County Business Agent Jim Tignanelli presented the case in front of Arbitrator Peter D. Jason. Evidence was introduced that the inmate had previously told other inmates that he would cause a disturbance if he did not receive his phone card. Department policy on the use of non-lethal force states that non-lethal force may be used against a person passively resisting a lawful full custody arrest when alternatives to the use of force have failed or are not available to the officer. Videos of the altercation were also made available to the Arbitrator for viewing.

In his Order, Mr. Jason states that this is a “situation in that an inmate refusing direct orders from Correctional Officers is the same kind of offense as a citizen attempting to resist a custody arrest from a police officer.” Jason further states, “after several viewings of the video, I conclude that no excessive force was used. Also, I found it difficult to determine what else the Correction Officers could have done.”

The Arbitrator also noted that on the night the incident took place, the inmate did not file any complaint, and the incident was not treated as an injury by either the inmate or the officers at the scene. The supervisor on duty was not concerned about any use of excessive force and not disciplined for her failure to report it to her superiors. In fact, the grievant was allowed to work for many weeks during the investigation, proving that even the supervisors did not believe that the grievant presented a danger to inmates.

Arbitrator Peter D. Jason returned the grievant to work with full back and benefits. For this and other reasons, Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski earned the distinction of being named the 2010 POAM Horse’s Ass.