The city of Owasso has been sued by three men who claim to have suffered
financial losses and humiliation as a result of the suspension of the
Owasso Police Department's defensive tactics program.
Jarod Mitchell, Darryl Jones and Lem Mutii state that as the
department's defensive tactics instructors, they were responsible for
teaching Owasso's police officers, including Lt. Mike Denton, such
The city has released police videos in which Denton can be seen stepping
on the head, stretching the handcuffed arms and appearing to elbow the
face of a Collinsville man who was arrested on a public intoxication
complaint on June 30, 2011.
Denton was fired in November because his actions violated the Police
Department's policy on use of force, according to the city. However, arbitrator Edward Valverde ruled in June that Denton should be
reinstated, saying that although the officer used unreasonable and
unnecessary force, his actions "did not rise to the level of excessive
force within the meaning of existing case law."
Valverde reduced the discipline from firing to a written reprimand and
ordered the city to reinstate Denton with back pay and benefits.
The lawsuit filed by Mitchell, Jones and Mutii says that after the
arbitration hearing was concluded in late March, Owasso Police Chief Dan
Yancey - also named as a defendant in the new civil suit -
suspended the defensive tactics program.
The three claim that the move "effectively" removed them from their
positions as defensive tactics instructors for the Owasso Police
The three allege that they have been retaliated against because of their
"public employee union activities" and because of their testimony at
the March arbitration hearing.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs say that "the arbitrator agreed with
the plaintiffs' testimony that Denton had not used 'elbow strikes' as
that term is understood by police officers."
Their attorney, James Patrick Hunt, said Tuesday evening that Mitchell
and Jones are still with the Owasso Police Department but that Mutii has
Instead of allowing Denton to rejoin the force, the city filed a lawsuit
July 16 in Tulsa County District Court challenging Valverde's
Valverde's decision did not comply with the law or a collective-bargaining agreement,
the city claims in its lawsuit.
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