An Indianapolis Metropolitan police officer who crashed his own squad car and then tried to cover it up has been fired.
The Merit Board terminated Matt Elam at the recommendation of the police chief. He was found guilty of official misconduct and failure to stop at an accident in July 2012.
Investigators said Elam crashed his squad car in June 2010 while intoxicated but failed to report it and left the scene. Police said he had a private body shop fix the damage and paid for the work out of his own pocket in order to cover it up.
He pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to probation in September 2012. He was also ordered to perform community service and pay a fine.
The firing comes just days after another IMPD officer was arrested for driving drunk.
Officer Ron Santa was taken in for drunk driving charges last week after he was allegedly swerving on the road in his squad car. Authorities said Santa was given a field sobriety test and had a blood alcohol level of .10. Additionally, it was reported Santa was wearing pajama pants, a t-shirt and no shoes when he was pulled over.
IMPD is in the process of conducting its own internal investigation on Santa.
Meanwhile, Officer David Bisard is accused of having been drinking and driving while on duty in August of 2010 when he drove his squad car into a group of motorcyclists, killing one. Bisard was also arrested and accused of driving while intoxicated in April of this year.
Officer Morton Gallagher was arrested and accused of driving while intoxicated in 2012 and Officer Allen Johnson was accused of driving drunk when he was pulled over for speeding in November of 2012. IMPD Officer Kevin Brown is currently on unpaid suspension after being arrested on suspicion of drinking and driving in Morgan County in August of this year.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office has had its share of problems, too. Deputy Matthew Milharcic was fired in May after being arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Deputy Alan Jones was arrested for drinking and driving during the Fourth of July holiday this year. He has since been fired.
After so many recent cases involving his department, Police Chief Rick Hite said he wished he had as much flexibility as the sheriff to fire officers in trouble with the law.
“I’d like to be able to, as the chief, have discretion to make choices, whatever those choices may be,” said Hite.
“They ought to have that freedom,” said state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis. “He ought to be able to have a zero tolerance policy if he wants that.”
Instead, the troubled IMPD officers are waiting to go through the merit board process, which often calls for a conviction before an officer can be terminated.
“If the police chief had the ability to terminate right now, you wouldn’t have people hanging around, like Bisard,” said Sen. Merritt. “Obviously you want to be able to say you have the finest out on the street, and right now some of the people in Indianapolis might question that.”
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
“The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was notified late last night by the Indiana State Police of the arrest of IMPD Officer Ronald Santa for Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated. Officer Santa was driving his IMPD vehicle.
The IMPD is in the process of conducting its own internal investigation of the incident last night. During the interim, Officer Santa has been assigned to administrative duties, with no police powers. He has also been referred to the Employee Assistance Program as well as to the IMPD’s Office of Professional Development and Police Wellness.
On February 16, 2011 IMPD General Order 3.24 was updated to include the attached disciplinary matrix that pertains to drug or alcohol related offenses.”