Officer under investigation has history of disciplinary infractions

Published 4:49 pm Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sproviero Graphic

An officer currently under investigation by his department has a history of disciplinary infractions and suspensions, including one for an incident involving a student at a city school.

Earlier this week, Elizabethton Police Department Chief Greg Workman confirmed his department is investigating allegations that EPD Cpl. Michael Sproviero engaged in inappropriate conduct with a student while serving as the school resource officer at T.A. Dugger Junior High School. Sproviero was removed from his position as the SRO and reassigned to desk duty until the investigation could be completed, Workman said.

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Results of the investigation will be released once it is complete, Workman said, adding that he hoped to have everything wrapped up some time this week. No further information has been released by the department at this time.

The Elizabethton Star has obtained a copy of Sproviero’s personnel file from the City of Elizabethton and learned the officer has been formally disciplined five times — including one demotion — in the past nine years. Sproviero has been employed by the Elizabethton Police Department since 1992.

The first disciplinary incident in Sproviero’s file is from a March 2006 incident at Elizabethton High School, where Sproviero grabbed a student by the arm. He was written up for “unbecoming conduct of a police officer.” He received a two-day suspension without pay and was placed on one year of probation with the department. Sproviero was serving as EHS’s SRO at the time of the incident.

In the disciplinary action report, former Police Chief Roger Deal admonished Sproviero for allowing himself “to be provoked into a position that may or could compromise (his) effectiveness as an SRO.”

Sproviero was disciplined again in May 2006, this time receiving a five-day suspension, an extension of his probationary status and a written reprimand for violating department policy by abusing sick leave. As part of that disciplinary action, Deal removed Sproviero as the SRO at Elizabethton High School and transferred him to the patrol division.

That report said Sproviero had called in sick to work so he could take a trip to Disney World.

Sproviero filed an appeal with former City Manager Charles Stahl, asking that he be allowed to remain the SRO for the high school.

“In the past, I have never been told nor have I been written up for abusing sick time,” Sproviero said in his letter of appeal. “However, in this particular incident, I called in sick when I should have used vacation time. I realize I made an error in judgment. I understand that there are consequences for my actions.”

In the letter, Sproviero goes on to say he felt his removal as the SRO was “too severe” a punishment. He also addressed the incident in March of that year involving the student.

“In March, I was involved in an incident at the High School involving a student. I received disciplinary action and was suspended for two days,” Sproviero said. “I have been able to take this incident and learn from it. This has shown me that students must be handled differently than adults. In many ways, this incident has made me a better officer.”

In response to the appeal, Deal sent a letter to Stahl detailing why he made the decision to reassign Sproviero.

“I believe that an officer must be honest and truthful in dealing with his superiors and setting an example for others in the department and with the students at the high school,” Deal said. “Officer Sproviero has both vacation and sick time accumulated that should and would not have prevented him from taking any time off, but yet he chose to not be truthful in dealing with his supervisor. I believe that this action of Officer Sproviero has damaged his image to the school staff as well as his supervisors at the police department.”

The appeal to stop the transfer was denied by Stahl, who noted Deal had the authority to transfer officers within the department.

Sproviero remained with the patrol division, earning the rank of Sergeant, but another disciplinary incident in 2012 once again resulted in the officer’s suspension.

In October of that year, Sproviero was demoted by then-Chief Matt Bailey, who wrote the officer up, saying he had failed to perform the duties of a supervisory officer. Sproviero was suspended for 15 days without pay and demoted from Sergeant to patrol officer.

“Sproviero failed to respond to a request for a supervisor by a patrol officer under his command and direction on Sept. 20, 2012,” the disciplinary action report said. “This was the second incident involving Sproviero failing to perform his duties as a supervisor.”

Four of his fellow officers wrote out statements regarding Sproviero’s conduct in that incident. According to those reports and the disciplinary action form, an officer who had responded to a call of a mentally disturbed woman armed with two knives, radioed for a supervisor to assist him. Sproviero was the supervisor on duty at the time, buy he failed to respond to the officer’s request for help. officer asked for assistance.

Sproviero was reprimanded two more times in 2014, once verbally and once in writing, regarding his judgement and decision-making skills.

In April 2014, Sproviero received a verbal reprimand after he advised Eastside Elementary principal Josh Wandell, to approach a man suspected of being armed on school property. According to the report, Sproviero told Wandell to ask him if he was carrying a gun and if he was armed, to tell him to leave the property.

A month later, in May, Sproviero received a written reprimand for violating department policy after he was observed giving five female students from T. A. Dugger Jr. High a ride in his police cruiser.

In his most recent performance evaluation, Sproviero received reduced marks in judgement and decision making.

“Cpl. Sproviero had two incidents in this evaluation period where his decision making was not up to department standards,” Sgt. Willard Johnson said in the evaluation, noting reprimands were issued. “He was counseled about his judgement making abilities and advised to contact his supervisor in the event he was unsure of appropriate actions to take.”