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Courts and Crime

Cleveland fires one police supervisor, demotes two and suspends others
FOP says the discipline is disproportional and will be appealed

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Police Chief Michael McGrath says supervisors are responsible for their direct reports.
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In The Region:

One captain is now a lieutenant. A lieutenant is now a sergeant. And a sergeant is out of a job. Those are among the disciplinary actions the city of Cleveland announced today against a dozen supervisors involved in last November’s massive police chase and shooting, which left two people dead. And, as WKSU’s  M.L. Schultze reports, all of that discipline is heading for an appeal.

LISTEN: Supervisor discipline unfolds

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Nearly 120 police officers were involved in the chase last Nov. 29 that began in downtown Cleveland and ended some 20 minutes later in a school yard in East Cleveland. But the disciplinary hearings began with just a dozen of them – all supervisors.

Cleveland Safety Director Martin Flask says supervisors are held to a higher standard,  to protect their officers and the community. And, he says, the behavior of one of the supervisors, Sgt. Michael Donegan was “so egregious” that he deserved to be fired.

 “The officer that’s being terminated failed in his primary mission to ensure that he provided accountability and engagement with the officers under his direct command. He disengaged himself from the pursuit, disengaged himself from the supervision of the officers under his direct supervision knowing full well that they were engaged  in a high speed pursuit throughout the neighborhoods of the city of Cleveland.”

Disciplined Cleveland police officers
St. Michael Donegan

Capt. Ulrich Zouhar
Lt. Paul Wilson

Sgt. Mathew Putnam
Sgt. Patricia Coleman
Sgt. Randolph Daley
Sgt. Jason Edens
Sgt. Brian Chetnick
Sgt. Brian Lockwood
Sgt. Mark Bickerstaff
Sgt. Matthew Gallagher
Sgt. Richard Martinez

Public pressure at play?
But the union representing the supervisors says the discipline is disproportional – with officers held accountable for actions they did not take, rather than actions they did.  Lt. Brian Betley of the Fraternal Order of Police says the firing, two demotions and nine suspensions of 1 to 30 days will all be appealed to an arbitrator. And he says the city caved to public pressure.

“It became such a large instance with the media and the public outcry and so forth. I think that overtook and played a part in some of these decisions and and some of these penalties. There are some charges here that other officers have received in the past and it didn’t include termination or such heavy handed suspension days.”

Betley noted that Donegan has never been up on disciplinary charges before.

The city will next review the actions of the more than 100 patrol officers also involved in the chase, and expects to hold disciplinary hearings in mid-July.

The chase ended with police officers firing nearly 140 bullets and killing Timothy Russell and Malinda Williams, who were unarmed. That part of the incident will not be reviewed until after the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office has decided if criminal charges are warranted.

Related WKSU Stories

State shooting investigation says Cleveland's police failure was 'systemic'
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

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