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19 News found taxpayers paid out six-figure salary to officer on leave after shooting; Now Beachwood has new policy

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 9:46 PM EDT
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BEACHWOOD, Ohio (WOIO) - Last summer, 19 News discovered that the City of Beachwood paid an officer’s six-figure salary for more than a year while he was on leave after shooting a shoplifting suspect.

Now, their police department says it has changed its policy as a result.

In a statement, the city said the department’s past practice has been to let Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) investigate, then have a prosecutor review for possible criminal charges before allowing the police department to do an internal investigation.

That’s not the case anymore, however.

After our months-long investigation exposed that officer Blake Rogers made more than $100,000 in his time sitting on paid leave. Now the city policy says, “The administrative investigation will start immediately in conjunction with any criminal investigation.”

The mayor says with this change, if there is reasonable evidence that police procedures have not been followed, disciplinary action can come prior to the completion of a BCI investigation or review by the prosecutor and court.

Here is a copy of the statement from the city in full:

The Beachwood Police Department has had very few use-of-force incidents in our history. Our past practice has been to initiate an investigation using BCI, then transmit this information to a prosecutor for review of possible criminal charges, and finally for the Beachwood Police Department to perform an internal review for violation of Police Policy. These were the agreed-upon steps followed in the Blake Rogers incident.

Our former police chief retired in early July of 2020, before the internal investigation was conducted. A new chief was not hired until September 28, 2020. Officer Rogers was terminated February 22, 2021 after the chief’s report was presented to me as mayor/safety director.

Under our new police chief, we adopted a new Police Policy Manual from a national service called Lexipol. A significant policy was added to the section on Administrative Investigations, which now reads: “The administrative investigation will start immediately in conjunction with any criminal investigation that will be conducted.” With this change, if there is reasonable evidence that police procedures have not been followed, review for disciplinary action in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement can occur prior to the completion of a BCI investigation or review by the prosecutor and court.

The city also released a copy of the full incident report, which 19 News had been denied for months.

The report itself doesn’t seem to accuse Blake of doing anything wrong.

However, the city went ahead and fired him anyway for what happened in the parking lot of Beachwood Place — which again begged the question — couldn’t city officials make future decisions without waiting so long, and costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars?

The report from BCI says a suspect accused of stealing a hat from Dillard’s “kept ducking down with both of his hands underneath the dashboard area” before he “accelerated his vehicle towards officer Blake Rogers.”

“One of the cruisers came through there and boxed him in, so he started driving at me through this one isle way where I was standing and that’s when I fired at him,” Rogers told other officers after the shooting.

The report includes a frame-by-frame breakdown of the shooting, using video from police dash cameras, including footage from an angle we haven’t shown you before.

The view captured by the camera on the side of Rogers’s patrol car shows that officer Rogers was not in between these cars, but instead took steps toward the vehicle as he fired two shots at the fleeing suspect.

It’s unclear whether this angle of video was shown to the grand jury that decided not to criminally charge officer Rogers last fall.

However, it does give us more insight as to why, in Rodger’s termination letter, Mayor Martin Horwitz wrote “the evidence in this case, does not support” Rogers’ account of what happened.

The mayor wrotes that, “instead the evidence demonstrates you were not entirely honest and forthcoming about the shooting.”

Even though we just got a copy of the report, BCI says it was complete in the fall of 2019.

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