Certification Of DPS Trooper Fired After Running Neighbor’s License Plate Under Review

Arizona Department of Public Safety badge [Photo courtesy AZDPS]

A state trooper fired last year after he used a computer in his patrol vehicle to check the license plate of a vehicle parked in his assigned parking space at a Tucson apartment could permanently lose his ability to work as a peace officer in Arizona, according to records obtained from the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (AZPOST) board.

Michael J. Blute started with the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) in May 2015 but was let go in March 2020 after an internal investigation of a complaint by a woman who lived at the same apartment complex. Blute’s termination was reported to the AZPOST board, which has authority to grant, deny, suspend, or revoke a peace officer’s certification.

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The AZPOST board received a report on April 21 about the former trooper’s actions. There was a unanimous vote to initiate proceedings against Blute’s certification, during which Blute, 44, will have an opportunity to present arguments in support of retaining his certification.

Public records show the woman complained to Blute’s supervisor about the trooper telling her he checked her vehicle’s license plate in October 2019 after finding the car parked two nights in a row in his assigned space. Blute admitted to DPS that he conducted the license plate check because the vehicle looked “out of place for that complex.”

It was later discovered the complex management staff errantly assigned the woman the same parking spot already assigned to Blute.

DPS submitted a felony referral to the Pima County Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution of Blute for “misuse of state property” via access of a law enforcement database for an unauthorized purpose. The county attorney’s office declined to press charges, but the matter was reported to AZPOST because Blute’s firing involved an allegation of misconduct.

If Blute’s peace officer certification is revoked by AZPOST, the decision is permanent. In addition, it would be reported to a national database reviewed by other state police boards.