Six officers fired as a result of an internal review into the 2012 chase and shooting that ended in the deaths of two unarmed suspects will not lose their pensions, according to Ohio law.
In a press conference Tuesday, Michael McGrath, Cleveland’s Director of Public Safety, announced the termination of six officers and the suspension of six officers. One officer has retired since the incident.
The 13 officers fired a total of 137 shots into Timothy Russell's Chevy Malibu. Russell and his passenger Malissa WIlliams were killed after leading police on a 24-minute high-speed chase.
Both victims were shot more than 23 times.
According to Section 2929.192, the officers are not in violation of the crimes stipulated in the Ohio Revised Code and therefore eligible to collect pensions following termination.
The law lists ”bribery, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity or theft” as the reasons for forfeiture of retirement benefits.
The officers in this case were fired for breaking police division rules and policies, not Ohio law.
Legal experts and lawyers tied to the case told newsnet5.com that the terminations could likely be reversed according to precedent.
In 2014, Sergeant Michael Donegan was fired for his role as a supervisor during the deadly chase. An arbitrator reversed that decision and restored the ranks of two officers who were demoted.
Another arbitrator threw out the charges against 18 other officers.
“Mainstream society has traditionally given the benefit of the doubt to officers to an officer’s word to an officer report,” David Malik, attorney for the Williams’ family, told newsnet5.com.
Jonathan Witmer-Rich, an associate professor as Cleveland Marshall College of Law, said arbitration process could set a dangerous precedent.
“You know that’s a real problem. There’s a serious public safety issue if it’s not reasonably possible to discipline officers after findings of serious misconduct,” Witmer-Rich told newsnet5.com.
The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association has filed grievances and vowed to reinstate the terminated officers.
“The city’s going to have an opportunity to prove their case and trust me when I tell you, they don’t have one,” President Stephen Loomis said in a press conference after news of the discipline.
The CPPA released another statement Wednesday, saying in part:
Make NO mistake, the decision to discipline our Officers is shamefully political and is the direct result of the current and false narrative surrounding the facts and law enforcement throughout this country. Their decision is also in direct conflict with the Federal Consent Decree agreement between the City of Cleveland and Department of Justice, which clearly "prohibits the consideration of the high (or low) profile nature of the incident" when determining discipline.
The city now has 20 days to respond to the CPPA’s grievances before the arbitration process begins.
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