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Wandering Officers: How Ohio fails to protect the public from bad cops

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Posted at 5:25 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 19:26:38-04

CLEVELAND — One year after protests sparked by George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, Ohio has failed to make it easier for police departments to get rid of bad cops.

Police officers can only lose their state certification if they are convicted of a felony or agree to relinquish it during a plea bargain.

Records provided to News 5 show 247 law enforcement officers have lost their Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) certification in the last decade.

“It’s very hard to get rid of an officer in Ohio who shouldn’t have the badge," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says it's "very hard to get rid of an officer in Ohio who shouldn’t have the badge."

“We need this kind of licensing structure that we have for every other profession," he said.

From your accountant to your attorney, your doctor to your dentist, to firefighters and EMS workers, many professions in Ohio require individuals to be licensed.

Licenses can be suspended or revoked for bad behavior. Information about the status of someone's license is easy to find online.

VERIFY A LICENSE HERE: eLicense Ohio Professional Licensure System

"A lot of other states have that kind of thing," Yost said. "But we don’t in Ohio. And we need to."

Wandering officers

After all, in the The Wandering Officer, a study published in the Yale Law Journal last year, the authors found officers who are fired and then rehired elsewhere are prevalent.

Wandering officers also often have more disciplinary problems after they're rehired, according to Ben Grunwald, an assistant professor at Duke Law School and John Rappaport, assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

They studied data from Florida, which has one of the strongest police decertification laws in the U.S.

Despite its strong law, the authors concluded:

“In any given year over the last three decades, an average of roughly 1,100 full-time law-enforcement officers in Florida walk the streets having been fired in the past, and almost 800 having been fired for misconduct, not counting the many who were fired and reinstated in arbitration. These officers...are subsequently fired and subjected to ‘moral character’ complaints at elevated rates relative to both officers hired as rookies and veterans with clean professional histories.”

'Stop the recycling'

“Virtually every other profession would decertify or revoke the license of someone who committed a serious offense," said Roger Goldman, an expert on police licensing. "Why in the world wouldn’t we do it for policing?"

For 40 years, the Saint Louis University Law School professor has worked to create and strengthen police decertification laws in the U.S.

Goldman said Ohio should have a database of officers accused or convicted of crimes and serious misconduct. Police departments should be required to check the database before hiring someone and a state agency should be able to get rid of any who breaks too many rules.

Goldman said it would be similar to how the U.S. regulates medical professionals.

The National Practitioners Data Bank has information, among other things, about medical board disciplinary decisions and malpractice cases.

In a 2016 research paper, Goldman said a police database should have just as much information.

The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, created by President Barack Obama, recommended the U.S. Department of Justice adopt Goldman's recommendation on a national level. It hasn't happened.

"We have to have some kind of system that will stop this recycling... to stop this shuffling and movement of officers between departments," Goldman said.

Timothy Loehmann

Take Timothy Loehmann.

In 2012, he was hired by the City of Independence.

Cleveland police officer who killed Tamir Rice will not get his job back
Timothy Loehmann

Police Chief Michael Kilbane said things didn't go well.

“He was sort of disconnected. And he was very emotional. He was prone to outbursts," Kilbane said.

After Loehmann suffered "a dangerous lack of composure during firearms training," an internal investigation was launched.

The deputy chief wrote Loehmann "could not follow simple directions... communicate clear thoughts or recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal."

The deputy chief concluded Loehmann would "not be able to cope or make good decisions" under stress.

“There was some pretty obvious maturity issues and performance issues so we made the decision part ways with him," Kilbane said.

Loehmann resigned.

Then, the City of Cleveland hired him.

On November 22, 2014, he responded to a call at Cudell Recreation Center where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was playing with what turned out to be a toy gun.

Within seconds of arriving at the scene, Loehmann shot and killed him.

“It been really hard and very hard to understand why we’re still here," Samaria Rice, Tamir's mother, said. "It makes me feel sad. It makes me feel hopeless sometimes.”

Tamir Rice

Loehmann can still work as a police officer in Ohio and is currently fighting to get back his job in Cleveland.

Police union attorneys appealed his 2017 firing to the Ohio Supreme Court last month.

Cleveland fired him for omitting information about his employment in Independence on his job application.

Donald Ivory

Donald Ivory can also still work as a police officer in Ohio, despite having faced multiple criminal charges and being fired over the allegations.

Donald Ivory, a Euclid police officer was indicted on felony bribery charges last week. It is far from his first brush with the law.

The Euclid police officer was indicted again last week on felony bribery charges.

RELATED: Euclid police officer accused of bribing, intimidating 13-year-old victim into recanting sexual assault allegations

This time, prosecutors said he tried to intimidate the 13-year-old girl who accused him of sexually assaulting her into recanting the allegations.

In 2019, an arbitrator forced the City of Euclid to rehire Ivory, despite domestic violence charges, theft allegations and being in "continued personal descent."

RELATED: Euclid police officer fired over domestic violence charges can return to work, arbitrator rules

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