Akron officials say former Police Chief James Nice used n-word

Posted at 4:49 PM, Aug 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-31 17:25:51-04

Akron city officials said former Police Chief James Nice admitted to using the n-word and told a high-ranking officer the racial slur may have been recorded.

The most detailed comments since Nice resigned on Sunday were made Thursday morning to reporters for the Akron Beacon Journal, News 5's media partner.

Major Ken Ball told the ABJ that the former chief's nephew, Joe Nice, approached an off-duty officer on Friday with evidence the top cop had inappropriate contact with a city employee and made derogatory comments towards other officers.


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Ball had a phone conversation with James Nice on Saturday, and during that call, Nice acknowledged he had used the n-word, city officials said.

"It was an admission to making racial slurs. There was a likelihood or a possibility that would have been audiotaped, videotaped, whatever the case may be," Ball said.

Police have not confirmed the existence of any recordings.

While investigating possible conduct unbecoming of an officer, investigators also began to examine information that could connect the former chief to criminal misconduct related to his nephew's pending case in Summit County Common Pleas Court.

Joe Nice was indicted on April 12 of on charges of grand theft, forgery and tampering with records. He's accused of forging a car title.

A special prosecutor from Cuyahoga County will oversee the criminal matter of Joe Nice and further evaluate any evidence that may be obtained in the investigation of James Nice.

Faced with the troubling allegations against the chief, Mayor Dan Horrigan gave Nice an ultimatum to resign or be fired. He resigned on Sunday afternoon.

"Someone who says those things, it's not acceptable in my administration, in this office or in this city," Horrigan told the newspaper.

Mike Leslie, vice president of FOP 7, said he was not aware of Nice making any racist comments during his six years as chief.

However, Leslie did witness Nice make disparaging comments regarding the weight of certain officers. Leslie said Nice also made a shocking statement towards former union president Paul Hlysnky, who died from cancer in 2015.

"When he got mad at Paul, he's like you know, 'I can't wait for that guy to die,' statements like that," Leslie said.

During a 2015 police memorial in front of police headquarters, some felt the chief crossed the line when he used a vulgar word to describe President Obama. Nice was critical of Obama's decision to pardon 46 drug dealers.

"I can only imagine that there will be federal, state and local police officers that will lose their lives to some of these 46 individuals that the dumb a** President Obama decided to let go," he told the crowd.

The former chief has not returned multiple News 5 calls for comment since his resignation.

On Thursday, his attorney, Michael Callahan, said any use of n-word is wrong, but wasn't aware of proof that Nice used that specific racial slur.

However, Callahan seemed to acknowledge some inappropriate behavior when he spoke to News 5 three days earlier.

"He's apologetic for any inappropriate comments, any inappropriate conduct, but categorically denies any criminal wrongdoing," Callahan said.

Akron City Councilman Russel Neal said he assumed Nice had used the n-word when the mayor mentioned during a Monday news conference that derogatory comments were said by the former chief.

"It's disappointing," Neal said.