Officer Criticized For Being Overly Aggressive On Traffic Stops

CLEVELAND - A Cleveland Police officer is being criticized for being overly aggressive on traffic stops, and you could be the next driver that he pulls over.

Tom Meyer, The Investigator, exposed the controversy surrounding officer Jerry Nichols.

This investigation started when 19/43 News producer Jodi Parrish got pulled over on Interstate 71 near Downtown Cleveland. Nichols cited Parrish for having an expired license sticker. Parrish tried to explain that it wasn't her fault, and she showed the officer a letter from the state explaining that there was a delay in processing the sticker.

The state authorized a 45-day extension, but Nichols wrote her a ticket anyway.

"I had explained that I had this extension notice and I didn't see why I would have to take off work and go down and sit in court all day, and he said, 'that's just the way it works,'" Parrish said.

Parrish was forced to go to court to avoid a fine. The judge ruled in her favor.

The officer collected 3 hours of overtime and more than 1 hour in comp time by simply appearing in court. Last year, Nichols racked up more than 1,000 in overtime -- the equivalent of working 20 overtime hours a week every week of the year.

When approached by The Investigator, Nichols would only say that he had "no comment."

His overtime came into question in 1998 as well. According to documents in his disciplinary file, he was having an extramarital affair on city time. Nichols falsified a duty report, showing that he was working when he was actually present for the birth of his child. He charged the city 3 hours of overtime.

The officer not only charged the city overtime, he apparently knew that his lover had an outstanding warrant and never arrested her. What's more, he gave her a friendship badge and police courtesy cards, which can influence an officer who is about to enforce the law.

Nichols was also investigated for a traffic stop that he recently made near West 162nd Street and Lorain Avenue. A woman, leaving church on a Sunday, said that the officer tried to pick her up as she drove toward Lorain Avenue.

"He wanted to know my plans for the evening," the motorist said. "Nothing about license or registration, instead (he said), 'What are you doing this evening? What are you doing tonight? What are your plans?'"

When she refused his advances, she said that he wrote her citations for speeding and running a red light.

"You don't give somebody a ticket because they refused to go out on a date with you," the woman said.

Investigators found insufficient evidence, saying it was his word against her word. Police files that The Investigator obtained showed that Nichols had already been disciplined once for overtime abuse. Police brass said that his actions haven't been serious enough to stop him from patrolling the streets.