Warren wins lawsuit against former deputy police commissioner

By: Brian Wells | Warren Weekly | Published October 12, 2022

 A federal judge has ruled in favor of Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, the city and Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer in a lawsuit filed by former Deputy Police Commissioner Matthew Nichols, right.

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, the city and Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer in a lawsuit filed by former Deputy Police Commissioner Matthew Nichols, right.

File photo


WARREN — A federal judge has ruled in favor of Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer, the city and Mayor Jim Fouts in a lawsuit filed against them by a former deputy police commissioner.

Former Warren Deputy Police Commissioner Matthew Nichols was appointed to the position in 2017 after serving the department as a lieutenant. However, in July 2018, he was placed on administrative leave after allegedly using force to arrest a shoplifting suspect, according to court records.

Allegations about an excessive use of force by Nichols were reportedly made by other Warren police officers at the scene, which led to an internal investigation. A review by the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office resulted in a warrant request for Nichols on an aggravated assault charge, but Macomb County prosecutors stopped short of authorizing the charge.

A Warren police investigation into the incident continued, and Nichols was notified by Dwyer that he was terminated in June 2019.

As part of his employment agreement, Nichols could have returned to his former position as a lieutenant. However, in his opinion, Goldsmith recounted a hearing from July in which Nichols’ attorney, Jamil Akhtar, stated Nichols wanted to be reinstated to the deputy commissioner position so Fouts could decide if he should be terminated or not.

In his opinion, Goldsmith granted summary dispositions in favor of the defendants based on Nichols’ remaining procedural due process claim and a January 2022 request to add a First Amendment retaliation claim.

On his claim of procedural due process, Goldsmith found that Nichols “had no property right” to the deputy commissioner position, he said in his opinion.

“Nichols cannot utilize a theory of procedural due process to win reinstatement to a position in which he has no property right,” Goldsmith said in his opinion.

In January 2022, Nichols attempted to add a First Amendment claim to his complaint, alleging that the defendants retaliated against him for filing a lawsuit in December 2018. Goldsmith denied the request, citing “undue delay, lack of due diligence, futility, and prejudice” as reasons in his opinion.

Nichols also asked the court to award him sanctions based on his assertion that the defendants destroyed audio recordings between the suspect he allegedly assaulted and a Warren police lieutenant following the suspect’s arrest.

In the opinion, Goldsmith states that a party seeking sanctions based on the destruction of evidence must prove that the party having control over the evidence was obligated to preserve it; that the records were destroyed with a culpable state of mind; and that the destroyed evidence was relevant to the party’s defense so much that it would support the party’s claims.

Goldsmith denied the claim, stating in his opinion that the evidence was irrelevant.

“Nichols has failed to establish two of the three elements required for success on his motion for sanctions,” Goldsmith said in the opinion.

Raechel Badalamenti, an attorney who was hired to represent the defendants, could not be reached for comment.

Akhtar said he and Nichols are working on a request for Goldsmith to reconsider his opinion.

“If he doesn’t change his position, we will file an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati,” he said.