TA Dugger SRO chooses resignation over firing
Published 7:45 pm Monday, March 16, 2015
An Elizabethton police officer accused of inappropriate conduct with a student resigned Monday morning in lieu of being fired by the department.
On Monday afternoon, Elizabethton Police Department Chief Greg Workman confirmed that Cpl. Michael Sproviero tendered his resignation after the conclusion of an internal investigation by the department.
“This morning he chose to resign from the Elizabethton Police Department effective immediately,” Workman said on Monday. “The resignation was in lieu of termination. The recommendation was going to be for termination.”
Sproviero had worked as the School Resource Officer at T. A. Dugger Junior High School until the schools received a complaint he had acted inappropriately with a student at the school. Once the complaint was made, Workman removed Sproviero from the school and placed him on desk duty pending the investigation.
An internal investigation by the department found Sproviero had engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer and failed to maintain control of department issued equipment, Workman said.
While Sproviero was on duty at the school, he began playing a game of dodgeball with a group of students in the gym and a female student was struck by the ball, Workman said.
“Once the individual was struck, he made an inappropriate comment to the student,” Workman said, adding Sproviero admitted to making the comment. “She made the statement of what was said and he verified what he said.” Workman declined to say what the officer said to the student.
Engaging in horseplay with the students is not appropriate for an SRO, Workman said, adding horseplay was also behind the second finding in the internal investigation.
Officers with the department carry a collapsible police baton, commonly called an ASP, as part of their duty equipment. “Because of the joking around and the horseplay, the students would sometimes get control of that baton,” Workman said, adding Sproviero had stopped carrying the baton because the students gained control of it so frequently.
The department had not been informed that the students had at any point taken the baton away from Sproviero or that he had stopped carrying it. That information was learned during the investigation into Sproviero’s conduct, Workman said.
“It’s a black eye for the department and its an embarrassment,” Workman said of the incident.
The investigation was prompted after a student reported the incident to school officials.
“I received a call from Principal (Randy) Little saying there was an issue of inappropriate conduct at his school and he said it was involving an officer of the police department,” Interim Director of Elizabethton City Schools Corey Gardenhour said. “I immediately called Chief Workman and relayed to him the information Principal Little had given me.”
Gardenhour praised the work by the police department during the investigation and their quick response to the complaint.
“I just appreciate so very much the cooperation and diligence of the Elizabethton Police Department,” Gardenhour said. “Our relationship with the Elizabethton Police Department providing an SRO to be in the schools is a very effective program.”
“We hope this event will not tarnish that relationship,” Gardenhour added.