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Fortville officer demoted after investigation into use of force in woman’s arrest

Matt Fox

FORTVILLE, Ind.– A central Indiana police lieutenant has been demoted for using excessive force during an arrest.

The Fortville Police Department says 10-year veteran Matt Fox became physically aggressive in July while arresting a woman for public intoxication.

The incident occurred around 3 p.m. on July 15 at the Dollar General located at 425 West Broadway Street. A 911 caller said a woman who appeared to be intoxicated was threatening people in the store. He conducted a traffic stop on her and the situation escalated when Fox suggested he will get a warrant to obtain a blood sample.

Police say the woman was uncooperative as Fox tried to transport her to the hospital, leading to the excessive use of force. Body camera video shows Fox handcuffing the woman to a chair and later roughly pulling her from his patrol car.

The blood test later showed the woman’s BAC was 0.11 percent, which is above the 0.08 percent legal limit.

Investigators say the extent of force used was not necessary. Indiana State Police investigated the case to determine if battery charges would be appropriate.

Investigators turned their findings over to Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton with no recommendation for charges. Prosecutor Eaton agreed and closed the criminal investigation.

Fortville Police Department Chief Bill Knauer said the department’s internal review found Fox violated three department policies:

  • Conduct unbecoming of an officer
  • Failure to uphold the department mission statement
  • Improper interview/testing procedures

Fox was placed on paid administrative leave after the incident and returned to work on Sept. 5. He will continue to serve as a patrolman, but he will lose his rank, take a pay cut and be required to attend extra classes. He had been promoted to the rank in January.

Knauer said the incident and the investigation that followed shouldn’t negate Fox’s long career of public service because in his 10 years, Fox has demonstrated his commitment to the police force and the community. Knauer points out Fox has been credited with saving the lives of two Fortville women who, in separate instances, years apart, each became unconscious while behind the wheel of a car.

In 2012, he returned to duty just 40 days after being shot nine times during a traffic stop.

“I’m proud of every one of our officers,” Knauer said. “Sometimes we have missteps, and we have to address those. That’s what we did in this case.”