COVINGTON, La. - Eyewitness News has learned that the officer at the center of the controversy over the arrests of two high school football referees has similar incidents in his past.
When word spread in October about the incident at a St. Paul's football game, where Covington Police Lt. Stephen Short arrested the officials for public intimidation, Andy Northcutt wasn't surprised.
"This is something that he has done many times,” Northcutt said. “He's done it to me personally. He's done it to other people."
Northcutt is a former Covington Police Officer fired in 2009. Short was in charge of the internal affairs and criminal investigations into Northcutt, which led to his termination.
Northcutt said his observations of Short's interactions with the public and co-workers led him to speak up.
“When he's challenged or he's presented with some sort of hurdle in whatever he's doing, he's going to threaten you," Northcutt said.
So we looked into Short's file. We found a three-day suspension in 1996 for "displaying conduct of a discourteous nature toward the public and other officers."
A similar complaint was filed the year before. In 2001, a superior recommended a one-day suspension because Short "raised his voice in a disrespectful manner" and said "I'm going to write you up," in response to being written up for missing roll call. Later that year, he was given another one-day suspension.
We also found several 'Thank You' letters from people in the community who had positive interactions with Short, as well as praise from the chief at the time for Short's investigative work.
The Covington Rotary also awarded Short "Officer of the Year" in 2004. It does not appear many entries were made into Short’s file after his promotions in 2003 and 2007.
Former Officer Northcutt says his experience with Short during his internal investigation was unprofessional.
"He was investigating a complaint that initiated, was learned to be out in Tangipahoa Parish, and he comes out to my house and put handcuffs on me, advised me of my Miranda rights, told me I was under arrest and actually seized evidence and personal property while doing that, then released me," he said.
Short's attorney said the lieutenant has been a long-time, competent law officer.
"Coming up with, what is it, five 10-year-old incidents, which I suggest any officer worth his salt has had complaints filed against him, it comes with the job," said Michael Fawer.
He also said the investigation now underway into Short for the referee incident is just for publicity.
"What I see this as is simply Chief Lentz's effort at a witch hunt, to gain publicity for himself," Fawer said. "I cannot understand why he took the issue of the referees at the ball game as a catalyst."
Northcutt believes Short's past is an indicator of the future.
"He needs to be stopped because it's going to continue, escalate, like it has over the years," Northcutt said.
New Police Chief Tim Lentz wouldn’t comment on this story citing the ongoing investigation into Short, which Eyewitness News reported first, last night.