SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. - A Sun Prairie police officer is out of a job after his own department realized he was issuing phony tickets to drivers.
News 3 talked to then-Sun Prairie police Officer Matthew McElroy in July about how his passion for his job stemmed from his commitment to the community.
"I feel like there is no better time to become a police officer," he said in a July 2016 interview.
McElroy had been a patrol officer with the Sun Prairie Police Department for five years, but after questions arose regarding the tickets he was issuing, he stepped down from his role. An attorney for the city, William Morgan, said McElroy was employed from July 9, 2012, until his resignation on Feb. 1.
"Every day, dealing with different types of people and different types of calls is fascinating to me and it's very rewarding," McElroy said last year.
The attorney for one woman who was pulled over by McElroy said the officer pulled the woman over because her brake lights were not working. According to the woman's attorney, Charles Kyle Kenyon, there was never a problem with the brake lights.
"If you have police officers just stopping people because they feel like it or because they have nothing else better to do, it's a real intrusion on everyone," Kenyon said.
Kenyon said his client was arrested and cited for an OWI after the officer said he smelled marijuana in the car. We are not naming the woman in this case, because all charges were dropped by the district attorney's office. A passenger in the vehicle at the time admitted that marijuana had been used.
Kenyon obtained video of the arrest, which confirmed there was no brake light problem. The charges against his client were dismissed after he filed a motion to suppress evidence due to an illegal stop.
"Our whole system depends on police officers acting honestly and being willing to play by the rules we have as a society," Kenyon said.
According to a letter from the police chief obtained by Isthmus, McElroy resigned after writing 25 tickets to drivers in 2016 for not wearing their seat belts. The letter, written by Police Chief Patrick Anhalt, states the incidents happened between April 26 and August 31.
"He wrote these citations despite the fact that the motorists were in fact wearing their seat belts. Officer McElroy admitted that he submitted to the Sun Prairie Municipal Court citations for offenses that did not occur," Anhalt said in the letter.
In a letter obtained through an open records request, Tom Hebl, a municipal judge, signed a letter to affected motorists informing them that their traffic citations had been dismissed. The February letter was sent to "a total of 24 defendants," according to Cindy Piper, the city's municipal court clerk.
"A review of court records has revealed that your seat belt citation was issued in error. As a result the Sun Prairie Police Department has requested that the judgment on your citation be set aside," the letter read.
Drivers who already paid the $10 fine were refunded.
According to Isthmus, Sun Prairie City Attorney Mark Leonard dismissed several other citations issued by McElroy because he could not trust his integrity.
The tickets were for minor offenses, like retail theft. “I felt I could not trust the honesty and integrity of the individual who would be my witness. It was an integrity issue for me,” Leonard told Isthmus.
The Sun Prairie Police Department declined a request to comment.
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