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Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Opens Up About Addiction in Resignation Letter

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DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Department of Public Safety announced Monday that former Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Michael Haugen has resigned.

Haugen was given notice of the department's intent to terminate his employment due to misconduct, which was filed on May 6. The 16-year patrol employee had 30 days to appeal the notice of intent but instead resigned.

In his resignation letter, Haugen wrote about becoming addicted to opioids while battling ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, for nine years. He said he wanted his letter to serve as a way to build awareness about addiction.

"My addiction negatively impacted my family, friends, co-workers and others and I'm taking responsibility for my actions," Haugen wrote. "This is a growing epidemic that can be reduced with education and awareness."

Haugen began his employment as a state trooper in May 2006. He was promoted to sergeant in August 2015. He was placed on administrative leave in March 2016 for 30 days, and that leave was extended a month later.

The department said it would not release any additional information about the intent to terminate Haugen since it is a confidential, personnel matter, the department said.

Haugen was involved in an accident in early March.

According to the accident report, the driver in front of Haugen, William Lawrence, made a sharp turn into a driveway, signaling at the last second. Haugen swerved but hit Lawrence’s car.

Haugen was not ticketed for the crash, which lawyers say is strange.

"I`ve represented probably in excess of 100 cases where it`s a rear end collision," said Attorney Mark Pennington. "Rear-end collisions are the fault of the person who hit somebody from behind. You have to be operating your motor vehicle at a speed in a manner that would allow you to stop in time."

The crash was investigated, per state patrol policy by Haugen's supervisor, Lt. Daniel Schaffer, who also didn't ticket Lawrence, the man he placed at fault in the crash.

Mark Pennington says that an officer being investigated by his own supervisor can lead to a conflict of interest or at least an appearance of one.

"It looks like the cops are looking after other cops," said Pennington. "That`s exactly what it looks like. That`s why you want to avoid that and that`s the kind of thing that shouldn't be happening and they should not want that to happen. They don`t want people to lose faith and confidence in law enforcement. When that happens you call in another agency."

Police will call for an outside agency to investigate if there is an injury or death, and accidents investigated internally are sent to a review board.

Police allege William Lawrence, the man Haugen hit, made the turn because he recognized the officer and did not have his driver’s license. Lawrence was cited for driving without one.

A police spokesman said that neither men were cited for the accident because Lt. Schaffer felt a ticket for either driver wouldn't have held up in court.