BILLINGS (AP) — A trooper who resigned last month rather than being fired was investigated several times during his 17-year career with the Montana Highway Patrol, according to a report obtained by a newspaper.
The Billings Gazette reported Thursday the investigations included allegations that Steve Wisniewski pointed a gun at a motorist and repeatedly struck a man with a baton while probing a traffic crash.
Patrol commanders assigned an officer to examine Wisniewski's past after learning Wisniewski had lied about his previous work and military experience during numerous conversations with co-workers and in applying for a promotion in 2007, the newspaper reported.
The report on the ensuing 20-month investigation led to Wisniewski's resignation in mid-December. There is no phone listing for Steve Wisniewski in Livingston.
Wisniewski was disciplined for dishonesty and excessive use of force in the early 2000s. But his discussion of his experience with the Michigan State Police and his service in Iraq — neither of which happened — were his downfall, the Gazette reported.
A personnel assistant who overheard commanders talking about Wisniewski's alleged background in April 2009 told them those stories didn't match what she remembered from his job application.
To settle the issue, the commanders pulled Wisniewski's job application from February 1993. Wisniewski said in the application that he had worked as a correctional officer at a Michigan prison, and had been in the Army for a brief time in the early 1980s before being discharged due to an accident.
The patrol assigned Capt. Mike Reddick to investigate.
Reddick's report includes details on Wisniewski's background and on incidents that occurred during his time as a Montana trooper.
According to the report, Wisniewski was suspended for two days in 2002 after commanders discovered he hadn't been keeping records on trooper recruits during an academy camp in 2001. Wisniewski claimed a computer had "lost" eight months worth of data on the recruits, but later acknowledged he hadn't been keeping the records.
In November 2002, Wisniewski was suspended for 10 days after a probe found he hit a man with a baton eight times while investigating a traffic crash, including two hits delivered when the man was on the ground. Wisniewski was given a "last chance agreement" to stay out of trouble. The deal was in effect for two years.
Wisniewski was promoted to sergeant in 2007.
In September 2009, Wisniewski was given a verbal warning for lying to Reddick in initially denying that he told a Bozeman Daily Chronicle reporter that someone had died in a July 2009 crash, when no one did.
In July 2010, a woman complained that Wisniewski pointed a gun at her when she mistakenly drove around a traffic barricade. Details of the event were redacted, but it occurred during a patrol "detail" between Gallatin Field and Big Sky on July 23, the day Vice President Joe Biden flew into Belgrade as part of a trip to Yellowstone National Park.
Reddick's report said when he questioned Wisniewski, he seemed nervous and stated he was pretty sure he didn't pull his gun. When Reddick asked for Wisniewski's in-car videotape for that day, Wisniewski told him he had problems with the taping system that day and for unknown reasons it did not record. He stated it had worked before that point and was again working properly.
"I pointed out to him that I found that rather suspicious and convenient," Reddick wrote.
The investigation found that Wisniewski lied about his work experience in forms submitted to the state Public Safety Officer Standards and Training agency, which certifies law enforcement officers.
"My P.O.S.T. applications show inconsistencies in the area of work history," Wisniewski wrote in a November memo. "I stated I was a Michigan State Trooper from 1989 to 1993. This is untrue. In my attempt to be accepted as a state trooper I was being deceptive. I will be honest in all future dealings. I am very ashamed of my actions."
Wisniewski was placed on paid leave this fall while the investigation wrapped up. He resigned Dec. 15, just days before a scheduled a pre-termination hearing.