Discipline for Cleveland cops upended because city failed to make case, train officers, arbitrator ruled

CLEVELAND, Ohio — An arbitrator who overturned the suspensions of four Cleveland police supervisors involved in a 2012 police chase and shooting wrote in a decision made public Tuesday that the city failed to properly train the officers.

Dennis Minni also concluded that the city failed to present clear evidence of wrongdoing by the supervisors, sergeants Patricia Coleman, Brian Chetnik, Matthew Putnam and Randolph Daley, according to his 23-page finding.

The city, which declined to comment for this story, released the decision to Northeast Ohio Media Group in response to a public records request. The document is dated May 24.

Coleman, Chetnik, Putnam and Daley were working the night of Nov. 29, 2012, when officers launched a 22-minute chase involving 62 police cars and climaxed in an East Cleveland, where 13 officers let loose 137 rounds at the unarmed suspects.

The supervisors, who were not among the officers who opened fire, were disciplined for a number of offenses ranging from failing to request permission before joining the chase and leaving subordinates unsupervised.

Minni’s decision doesn’t specify what evidence he considered when making his decision, but noted that the city presented 27 pieces of evidence and the police supervisor’s union submitted 12 pieces of evidence. Both parties submitted an additional 16 pieces of identical evidence.

Minni overturned a 30-day suspension for Coleman, a 15-day suspension for Daley and 10-day suspensions for Chetnik and Putnam.

In his decision, Minni cites an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation review that found the police chase and shooting was a “systemic failure” by the police department.

“I will not attempt to gauge the degree or percentage of the [police administration’s] share of the let-down in police performance it has lodged against all four grievants. But it is inescapably there,” Minni wrote.

Insufficient training combined with a lack of car-to-car communication “leaves even the most street-experienced officers open to criticism for how they might drive, communicate or lead others,” according to the decision.

Minni, who has a history of representing labor unions, found the punishments were too harsh for the offenses alleged by the city.

“I do not find any of the specifications, standing along as to each grievant, sufficient to be a predicate for the level of suspensions imposed,” Minni wrote.

He added, “I cannot escape a fairly pervasive feeling that these disciplinary decisions were designed to play to a different audience rather than to correct and rehabilitate in the labor-management sense.”

Dan Williams, a spokesman for Mayor Frank Jackson, said the city plans to appeal Minni’s decision within the 90-day deadline.

The union representing the supervisors has declined to comment on Minni’s decision.

Coleman and Daley both face criminal charges of dereliction of duty for their roles in the chase. Their cases are pending in front of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell, who on May 23 acquitted officer Michael Brelo of manslaughter charges stemming from the chase.

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/06/discipline_for_cleveland_cops.html