Pursuit Investigation Administrative Decisions Police Supervisors Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On November 29, 2012, a high speed pursuit began in the City of Cleveland and ended in the City of East Cleveland. Immediately after the incident, a Critical Incident Administrative Review Committee was formed to conduct an administrative review of the pursuit. The Committee reviewed records, interviewed police supervisors and other police personnel and drove the pursuit route to determine if the pursuit followed the Division’s policy and procedures.

This administrative review is solely focused on those involved in the pursuit, and not those involved in the use of deadly force. The use of deadly force is currently under review by the County Prosecutor.

Upon completion of the Committee’s review, the results were forwarded to Police Chief Michael McGrath, who then determined that, based on the evidence gathered by the Committee, 12 police supervisors (1 Captain, 1 Lieutenant and 10 sergeants) involved in the pursuit should face administrative charges. Pre-disciplinary hearings were conducted in May 2013. The following is a summary of the results of those hearings.

The following is a synopsis by Director of Public Safety Marty Flask for those administrative hearings under his review.

1.           Sergeant Matthew Putnam: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012, when you as a Third Police District Support Supervisor, allowed officers under your direct command to engage in or parallel a pursuit even after a Third District Sector Supervisor terminated the participation of all Third District officers. Your failure to supervise the individuals under your direct command and allowing them to engage in or continue in a pursuit that had been ordered terminated is unacceptable conduct by a supervisor of the Cleveland Division of Police.

In addition, you acknowledged that you failed to notify the Communications Control Section of your involvement or that you were responding with a patrol rifle, a tool you believed may be necessary during the pursuit. You reported that your primary purpose of responding was the possible deployment of a patrol rifle, but through your failure to share your response or equipment availability, you denied those responsible for controlling the pursuit information that may have been beneficial.

Upon carefully reviewing the evidence presented by the Division, the memorialized record, as well as the arguments of you and your representatives I dismissed Specifications No. 2 and 4. Your arguments for failing to secure your weapon were persuasive. However, I find just cause to impose discipline for the remaining administrative charges. As such I find you, “Guilty” of the remaining charges set forth against you. Therefore, you are suspended from duty without pay for a period of ten (10) working days (eighty (80) hours). The suspension days will be scheduled at the discretion of the Chief of Police.

2.           Sergeant Randolph Daley: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012, when you as a Second Police District Support Supervisor were not fully prepared or equipped until four hours after you reported for duty. Your failure to be properly dressed and equipped for duty delayed your response to address a report that officers under your direct supervision were fired at by suspects in a fleeing vehicle.

Although you reported that you continuously monitored the pursuit, you failed to make any inquiries from the officers engaged in the pursuit, the Communications Control Section, or any other supervisory officers on the number or scope of the deployment of police personnel.

You further reported that you believed there were only several vehicles engaged in the pursuit. Your failure to inquiry and effectively analyze the situation impeded effective control and management of the pursuit. To your credit, unlike some other supervisory officers, you did respond.

The Division of Police failed to present compelling evidence that you were in violation of Specification No. 1 that alleged you submitted a daily duty report that was factually incorrect. The testimony that you had the availability of a supervisory vehicle without an automated vehicle locator (AVL) system was not refuted by the Division of Police, therefore, that charge is dismissed.

Upon carefully reviewing the evidence presented by the Division, the memorialized record, as well as the arguments of you and your representatives I find just cause to impose discipline for Specifications No. 2, 3, 4 and 5. Specification No. 1 is dismissed. As such I find you, “Guilty” of the charges set forth against you. Therefore, you are suspended from duty without pay for a period of fifteen (15) working days (one hundred twenty (120) hours). The suspension days will be scheduled at the discretion of the Chief of Police.

3.           Sergeant Patricia Coleman: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012, when you as a Second Police District Support Supervisor violated the Division of Police pursuit policy which prohibits officers assigned to unmarked vehicles as the lead pursuers for extended periods of time when marked police vehicles are available. You became so involved in the pursuit that you sacrificed your ability to effectively supervise your subordinates. Consequently, information about the size and scope of the pursuit was not relayed or shared with supervisors who could have and should have managed the pursuit response.

This failure to relay information is also evident through your own testimony that you observed the suspect, who while being pursued drove erratically, operated left of center on several occasions, and repeatedly disregarded traffic control devices. This erratic driving and the disregard for the safety of others is the proximate cause of the suspect(s) ramming a police car during the pursuit. Had the information regarding the excessive rates of speed and erratic driving been provided to those controlling the pursuit, it may have altered their tactics.

Upon carefully reviewing the evidence presented by the Division, the memorialized record, as well as the arguments of you and your representatives I find just cause to impose discipline for the administrative charges. As such I find you, “Guilty” of the charges set forth against you. Therefore, you are suspended from duty without pay for a period of thirty (30) working days (two hundred forty (240) hours). The suspension days shall be scheduled at the discretion of the Chief of Police.

4.           Lieutenant Paul Wilson: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012. By your own admission, you were aware that the Third District’s involvement with this vehicle pursuit was terminated by a Third District Supervisor. Despite that order, you directed Sergeant Edens to respond to the pursuit with emergency lights and siren.

You reported that you observed approximately twenty (20) police vehicles engaged in the pursuit. Despite your own observations, you failed to provide this information to the Communications Control Section or any other supervisory officer engaged in the supervision of the pursuit.

Your own testimony revealed that during the pursuit, you failed to communicate with anyone nor did you take any supervisory action while engaged in the pursuit, other than being a passenger in a vehicle driven by Sergeant Edens.

Upon carefully reviewing the evidence presented by the Division, the memorialized record, as well as the arguments of you and your representatives I find just cause to impose discipline for the administrative charges. As such I find you, “Guilty” of the charges set forth against you. Therefore, you are reduced in rank from Lieutenant to Sergeant of Police, effective immediately.

5.           Captain Ulrich Zouhar: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012. As the Patrol Captain assigned to the Second Police District and the most senior officer on duty, you failed to properly supervise personnel under your direct command who were engaged in a lengthy pursuit through Cleveland streets and into the city of East Cleveland. The evidence revealed that although you were aware of the pursuit, you failed to communicate with any officers or supervisory officers engaged in the pursuit or with the Communications Control Center to determine who or why they were involved.

Officers under your direct command were reportedly under gunfire by armed suspects, but the evidence revealed that you and other Second District supervisory officers under you command sat in your offices in the police building and did not leave the building until 25 minutes after the pursuit ended in East Cleveland and did not arrive on scene until an hour after the pursuit ended.

During the pursuit, you failed to monitor the activities within the Second Police District, did not know who was involved nor did you inquiry who was involved or why, and did not inquire from the Communications Control Section or anyone else regarding pending assignments within the Second Police District or who was patrolling the streets of the Second District during the pursuit.

You failed your duty as a Captain of Police to ensure that personnel under your command were fully discharging their duties and responsibilities as officers of the Cleveland Division of Police.

Upon carefully reviewing the evidence presented by the Division, the memorialized record, as well as the arguments of you and your representatives I find just cause to impose discipline for the administrative charges. As such I find you, “Guilty” of the charges set forth against you. Therefore, you are reduced in rank from Captain to Lieutenant of Police, effective immediately.

6.           Sergeant Michael Donegan: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012, where you as a Sector Supervisor failed to properly supervise personnel under your direct command who were engaged in a lengthy pursuit through Cleveland streets and into the City of East Cleveland.

The evidence obtained during the investigation revealed that you were aware of the pursuit and actually engaged in the pursuit. Because of your vantage point, you were in a position to take control of the pursuit or at a very minimum, offer crucial information to the responders or other supervisors that may have impacted the decision on whether or not to continue the pursuit.

The evidence obtained during the investigation clearly revealed that you left the pursuit and parked your police vehicle near a City park and abdicated your responsibility as a sector supervisor. While parked, you failed to offer any guidance or support to officers under your direct supervision. Your justification for parking your vehicle and eliminating yourself from supervisory oversight was not supported by the evidence presented during the administrative hearing.

Upon carefully reviewing the evidence presented by the Division, the memorialized record, as well as the arguments of you and your representatives I find just cause to impose discipline for the administrative charges. As such I find you, “Guilty” of the charges set forth against you. Because of the gravity of your failure to exercise your responsibilities as a Sergeant of Police for the City of Cleveland, you are hereby terminated from employment with the City of Cleveland effective Tuesday, June 11, 2013.

The following is a synopsis of the administrative decisions by the Chief of Police.

7.           Sergeant Matthew Gallagher: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012. Sgt. Gallagher, as a Third District Sector Supervisor, was not aware that personnel under his command engaged in the pursuit, nor did he make any inquiries as to any of their statuses. He did not advise Communications of his involvement with the pursuit or make notifications to disregard late responding units.

Sgt. Gallagher was found guilty of the administrative charges and is suspended from duty without pay for a period of three (3) working days (thirty (30) hours) with two (2) of these days (twenty (20) hours) held in abeyance.

8.           Sergeant Jason Edens: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012. Sgt. Edens, as a Third District Sector Supervisor, was not aware that personnel under his command engaged in the pursuit, nor did he make any inquiries as to any of their statuses. He was riding in a car with a superior officer. However, he did not advise Communications of his involvement with the pursuit or make notifications to disregard late responding units.

Sgt. Edens was found guilty of the administrative charges and is suspended from duty without pay for a period of three (3) working days (thirty (30) hours) with two (2) of these days (twenty (20) hours) held in abeyance.

 9.           Sergeant Mark Bickerstaff: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012. Sgt. Bickerstaff, as a Third District Sector Supervisor failed to take any supervisory action knowing the pursuit was terminated by another Third District Sector Supervisor. He failed to inquire with CCS regarding pending assignments. Information about the size and scope of the pursuit was not relayed or shared with supervisors who could have and should have managed the pursuit response.

Sgt. Bickerstaff was found guilty of the administrative charges and is suspended from duty without pay for a period of ten (10) working days (one hundred (100) hours).

10.      Sergeant Brian Lockwood: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012. Sgt. Lockwood, as a Second District Sector Supervisor, failed to acknowledge the pursuit. He failed to take any supervisory action during the pursuit and remained in the office while the pursuit entered his district and throughout the city for over twenty minutes.

Sgt. Lockwood was found guilty of the administrative charges and is suspended from duty without pay for a period of ten (10) working days (one hundred (100) hours).

11.      Sergeant Richard Martinez: The incident that led to the administrative charges began on Thursday, November 29, 2012. Sgt. Martinez, as a Second District Sector Supervisor, failed to take any supervisory action during the pursuit. He failed to communicate with the Communications Center or any supervisors during the pursuit. He failed to supervise personnel under his command and sat in the car ‘reading a book’ at the East Cleveland scene.

Sgt. Martinez was found guilty of the administrative charges and is suspended from duty without pay for a period of ten (10) working days (eighty (80) hours).

12.      Sergeant Brian Chetnik: Sergeant Chetnik will be advised that in in accordance with Article IV § (o) of the collective bargaining agreement between the City of Cleveland and the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #8, a pre-disciplinary conference has been rescheduled before the Director of Public Safety to determine whether he violated various provisions of the Manual of Rules, Department of Public Safety, and the rules of the Civil Service Commission of the City of Cleveland. The Chief of Police believes that if the allegations set forth in the notice are true, that discipline exceeds his ability to impose.

It is expected that the hearing will be convened within the next ten (10) working days.

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