CLEVELAND — Three Cleveland police officers have been charged with misdemeanor assault after allegedly assaulting a fellow officer outside the union hall, according to court documents from Cleveland Municipal Court. According to court documents, the fight occurred in the back parking lot of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association building off West 358th Street in mid-November.
Patrol officer Michael Phelps, 29, who was hired in December 2015, was charged with one count of misdemeanor assault. Phelps also faces assault and aggravated menacing in connection with an incident that occurred shortly after the fight as well. In that case, Officer Phelps is accused of threatening to kill a woman after he allegedly grabbed her throat and slammed her against a wall, court documents said.
Officer John Ogle, 29, who was hired in September 2016, and Wyatt Woodrell, 25, who was hired in August 2019, were both charged with one count of misdemeanor assault for the incident outside the union hall, according to court documents.
All three officers work in the basic patrol unit in the division’s Fifth District and have been placed on restricted duty with no contact with the public pending the outcome of their criminal cases.
According to court documents, Phelps challenged the victim, an unidentified Cleveland police officer, to a fight shortly after 10 p.m. on Nov. 15. Woodrell allegedly tackled the victim. All three officers are accused of striking the victim in the head.
The extent of the victim’s injuries is not known.
The criminal cases against the three officers come as the Division of Police has had to navigate a surge in the number of officers who have had to call out because of exposure to COVID-19 or positive tests of the deadly virus. Chief Calvin Williams told the City Council’s Safety Committee last week that the division is already short 70 officers from its budgeted amount of 1640. The staffing challenges have been exacerbated in recent weeks, Williams said.
“The last couple of weeks we have had upwards of 160 officers out because of COVID-19 within the division. Sometimes, it’s been more than that,” Williams said. “That’s not to make an excuse. That’s the reality of what’s going on, not just here but across the country.”
At a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon where city officials outlined the future rollout of COVID-19 vaccines city-wide, Mayor Frank Jackson likened the staffing challenges at the Division of Police to the challenges that hospitals and other frontline businesses have had to cope with.
“You get the job done with the personnel that you have. If not for the COVID-19 infections, that would mean 160 officers would be on the job. In terms of the three officers under some kind of criminal charges, that is a drop in the bucket and wouldn’t make much of a difference. But 160 [officers] does,” Jackson said. “You have to step up… We just step up and do what we have to do. Is it better to have people? Yes. Is it less efficient because you don’t have them? Yes. But that doesn’t stop the show. You still have to perform.”