Three Michigan police officers were forced to resign this week after they were caught on video stealing a man’s phone who had photographed a cop car parked on the wrong side of the road before posting it on Facebook.
And all it took was a seven-week investigation in which Bay City officers Brian Ritchey, Don Aldrich and Keath Bartynski sat at home on paid administrative leave.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are still trying to determine if they will file criminal charges against any of the officers.
The stolen phone? That’s still missing.
However, a 20-second video clip from another citizen shows the phone in the hands of one of the officers after they had placed the man in handcuffs and forced him to sit in the back of a police car.
Bay City attorney Jason Gower, who said he is representing the man who filed the complaint, said the alleged incident in question took place at Steamer’s Pub, 108 N. Linn St. He said his client — whom neither he nor police have named — told him the incident began after he stepped outside the bar and took a photograph using his Samsung S3 smartphone of a police Chevrolet Tahoe parked nearby.
He said his client uploaded the photo to Facebook with the caption: “Bay City’s finest illegally parked so they can flirt with a Bay City bartender, keep it up Brian Ritchie [sic] you’re doing our city proud.”
Gower said his client told him Ritchey later entered Steamer’s and, along with Aldrich, who was at the bar off duty, confronted his client. Gower said his client used his phone to record the two officers’ encounter with his client.
A short time later, Gower’s client told him, Bartynski arrived while on duty. Gower’s client told him the three officers later went outside where Bartynski placed the man in handcuffs, searched him and put him into the back of a police Tahoe.
Gower said his client told him he was later released, and his client said his cell phone went missing and has yet to turn up.
“A uniformed officer and an off-duty officer approached him and started making verbal threats, threats of bodily harm, threats that he’s a marked man, threats of that nature,” Gower said.
Gower said the man, who doesn’t want to be identified, ultimately ended up in cuffed and in the back of a police car, all while being recorded by bystanders. He was ultimately let go, but his $600 phone was gone.
“The phone was ultimately stolen from him, but that is caught on video, not being taken from him, but the off-duty officer actually has the phone in his hand, and there is video to support that contention,” Gower said.
If they don’t get criminally charged, the cops will probably end up rehired at another police agency where they will likely be in the news again if history is any indicator.
After all, as Michigan Live reports, Richey has had a DWI, Aldrich has been sued for assault and Bartynski has been accused of civil rights violations.
UPDATE: The Bartynski incident also involved a citizen’s post on Facebook, according to a previous Michigan Live article.
In his citizen’s complaint against a Bay City police officer, Michigan State University football star Trenton D. Robinson claimed his civil rights were violated when he was pulled over Dec. 22.
Robinson filed the complaint against Officer Keath Bartynski on Dec. 24. Bartynski pulled over Robinson around 5:45 p.m. as he drove a 2003 Buick in the area of North Van Buren and Third streets.
In his narrative, a copy of which was obtained by The Times via a Freedom of Information Act request, Robinson states Bartynski told him he initiated the stop due to a suspicion of having needles in his car, implying drug activity. Bartynski had Robinson exit his car and “aggressively use[d] unnecessary force to command my body in motions that I was uncomfortable with,” Robinson states.
At some point, Bartynski told Robinson he did not care “who the [expletive] I was,” Robinson claims.
Bartynski let Robinson leave the scene without issuing him a ticket. A short time later, Robinson left this post on Facebook:
“All I do is good for my city and try and set an example for the youth in my city of what not to do but for some reason when I come home and try and visit The Bay City Police always wanna stop me and take ms [sic] out my car and search me like I am out here selling dope!!! UN believable.”
An hour or so later, Robinson was dining with friends and family at Buffalo Wild Wings, 4050 E. Wilder Road, when Bartynski entered the restaurant. Robinson claims Bartynski approached him, handed him a $120 citation for failure to signal and said, “Here you go, role model, here’s a ticket…and I like your post on Facebook.”