10 Investigates: Troubled Police Back On The Beat In Central Ohio
A 10 Investigates' analysis of Central Ohio police departments reveals that some departments are hiring officers who have serious professional troubles in their backgrounds.
In some cases, the officers were fired or quit among internal affairs investigations that were being conducted by their former employers.
Former New Albany Police officer Steve Mowery faced several accusations of misconduct while he worked for that force.
Ram Nugooru lodged one of those complaints against Mowery about a 2006 traffic stop. Nugooru believes Mowery pulled him over for no good reason.
"So I asked him, 'Why did you stop me?'" Nugooru said. "He said, 'You didn't stop at the stop sign.'"
But officer Mowery could not see the portion of the intersection in question, and Nugooru knew it.
"I said, 'How would you know if you're not in front of me?'" Nugooru said. "He lied. Basically, he lied."
Nugooru went to trial, but he says that Mowery lied on the stand.
Later, New Albany Police investigators found that Mowery's trial testimony was "not consistent with the truth."
Nugooru later sued.
"It was bad," Nugooru said. "That's the reason I sued."
New Albany settled the case. Other internal affairs complaints were also streaming in against Mowery, according to New Albany Police records.
Mowery allegedly used excessive force against a teenager and was sued. That case was settled, according to those who were involved.
New Albany also investigated and then re-investigated an affair that Mowery later admitted to while on leave for military duty. A New Albany sergeant wrote in an internal investigative report that Mowery gave a "false statement" to internal investigators when he was first questioned about the affair.
Mowery resigned before the police department could make a final recommendation for discipline, according to sources at the New Albany Police Department.
Mowery then applied at the Frazeysburg Police Department in Muskingum County.
When the call came for a reference, the department had nothing bad to say about Mowery.
Greg Jones is now New Albany's Police Chief but was not the chief at the time Mowery was there.
Jones said that New Albany's policy on reference was the same then as it is now: no negative personnel references.
"The city's policy is to give a neutral reference," Jones said.
Jones said that if other police departments wanted to find the records on past officers, they need only make a public records request.
"The onus is on them," Jones said.
Making such requests is a vital step to insure that police departments do not hire troubled officers, he said.
Today, Mowery works as a deputy for the Lucas County Sheriff's office in the Toledo area.
Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp said that he "had no idea" about Mowery's past troubles. Tharp added that he took office after Lucas County hired Mowery as a deputy in 2012.
Tharp said that he is now conducting an investigation into Mowery's hiring, including plans to visit the New Albany Police Department to retrieve personnel records.
10 Investigates found other troubled officers moving from department to department. The investigation also found that there are no formal rules on background checks that might prevent officers from slipping through hiring reviews.
For example, former Nelsonville police officer Randy Secoy was hired despite a reprimand from the Athens County Sheriff's office for his "inability to control his anger." Nelsoville's Police Chief Jason Wallace told 10 Investigates that he was unaware of the problems when he hired Secoy. Secoy made the news last year after surveillance video showed him lunging toward a seated teenager and forcefully gripping the teen's throat. (State records show that Secoy is no longer working as a police officer in Ohio).
10 Investigates found similar issues at the Franklin Township Police Department.
Franklin Township Police Chief Allan Wheeler has hired multiple officers who have had troubles elsewhere. One officer resigned his position as a police chief at Marietta College in eastern Ohio. 10 Investigates confirmed that the officer had a temporary protection order placed against him. Printed reports that are still available online say that the former Marietta College Police chief was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a woman and stalking her.
When asked about those reports, Wheeler said he was unaware of them.
"That wasn't brought to my attention," Wheeler said. Wheeler later said that he is now reviewing the situation and said by email, "There is always two sides to a story and sometimes three!!"
Wheeler said he was also unaware of the background of a reserve officer when he hired that officer.
According to a Columbus Police report, that officer who previously worked for the Mount Sterling Police Department, was found with a gun to his throat and had possibly fired a shot during an apparent suicide attempt in 2009.
Wheeler said that he did not know about the issue when he hired the officer.
"We didn't have... that part of the background yet," Wheeler said. "He was a reserve officer until we did the complete background check and when that was brought up, he resigned."
The president of the Columbus area Fraternal Order of Police, Jason Pappas, said that officers such as those we identified "should be prohibited from being hired."
Pappas said the 10TV findings show that some departments need to do a better job conducting background checks.
"If those best practices aren't being done, I would strongly encourage the leaders of those communities that they need to rethink their hiring process," Pappas said.