MARION COUNTY, INDIANA, Ind. — A now-former Decatur Township school resource officer was fired after making "offensive" and "racial" statements to a high school student. 13 Investigates learned the officer could land another SRO job after the firing, despite having a criminal history.
Decatur Township schools report they sent Officer Paul Tutsie a termination letter on March 1 after they investigated a complaint from a student and their family claiming Tutsie made "offensive" and "racial in nature" statements to a ninth-grader at the end of February.
13 Investigates can't say exactly what Tutsie said because our request for the complaint was denied. The district said it contained "personally identifiable student information."
Chase Lyday, the president of the Indiana School Resource Officers Association, wouldn't comment on the specifics of Tutsie's case. In general, he said a firing does not mean the end of a career.
"If it wasn't felony activity or something demonstratively a crime, then there's a good chance they could get hired again from another department," Lyday said.
However, a 2021 law means future policing agencies should learn about Tutsie's firing. It requires law enforcement agencies to do background checks into past work histories. It also requires other police departments to release an officer's disciplinary history.
The new law also established a procedure to allow the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board to decertify a problem officer. An officer can lose their certification if they are convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor "that would cause a reasonable person to believe that the officer is dangerous or violent." Decertification is also on the line if the officer "has a demonstrated propensity to violate the law."
Lyday said each law enforcement agency sets its own standards for new hires.
"You have to look at mistakes and patterns of behavior," Lyday said. "As a human being myself, I hope that I'm judged by the pattern of my behavior rather than a single incident. But that's up to a law enforcement agency to decide."
The new law means potential employers should learn why Tutsie was fired. It should also reveal that he resigned from the Indianapolis Police Department nearly 24 years ago.
In 1996, Officer Tutsie and three other IPD officers were arrested and charged with felonies for what was then dubbed the IPD brawl. Off-duty officers reportedly got drunk at a baseball game. They then went downtown and got into a fight with civilians. Witnesses say the officers also yelled sexist and racist slurs.
The first trial resulted in a hung jury. In 1998 Officer Tutsie resigned from IPD and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. The plea deal meant three additional charges, including felony battery and perjury, were dismissed.
That same year, Clermont Police gave Tutsie a second chance as a reserve officer. The department said he worked there until about 2000, when they believed he left for another job opportunity. The department told 13 Investigates it doesn't believe there were any disciplinary issues.
In 2001, 13News reported Tutsie was accused of roughing up a teen while working security for IndyGo. However, it's unclear what happened to that case. IndyGo told 13 Investigates Tutsie was a contracted off-duty officer, and it doesn't have an employment or disciplinary history for him.
While police must share past history with other departments, state law doesn't always require them to share that information with the public. However, 13 Investigates didn't find any additional issues involving Tutsie until his recent firing. The termination came after nearly eight years with Decatur Township's school police department.
Tutsie could not be reached for comment for this story. 13 Investigates tried to reach him by phone, text, social media and acquaintances.