‘It was a punch in the face.’ East Cleveland police chief apologizes after 2 officers arrested for theft while on duty
CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio (WOIO) - East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner took to Facebook Tuesday to apologize after two officers were arrested earlier this month on allegations of theft while on duty and were booked into their own jail.
Gardner called the alleged thefts “a punch in the face” that damaged the department’s reputation and that of the policing profession and apologized in a department Facebook post.
“I would like to offer a sincere, somber apology to not only the victims, but to our citizens, and law enforcement professionals throughout the United States,” he wrote.
Gardner also described the circumstances that lead to the officers’ arrests.
On July 9, an East Cleveland desk Sargeant received a complaint about alleged misconduct by the two officers, which he passed to the department’s detective bureau, according to Gardner. Both officers were called to the bureau from the road and were questioned. Detectives determined they had enough to reasonably suspect that criminal activity had occurred and Gardner called the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office to investigate.
A 21-year-old man alleged the officers stole from him during a traffic stop, according to an incident report from the sheriff’s office.
The officers, Alfonzo Cole and Willie Warner-Simms, were arrested and booked into the East Cleveland jail.
Gardner called special attention to that fact in his statement.
“This means these two officers had to be booked into our jail by our officers,” he wrote. “While I did not personally book them into our facility, I cannot imagine the awkwardness and embarrassment felt by the booking officers caused by the flagrant disregard of societal standards displayed by these two officers. Not only was this insulting to East Cleveland as a city and as a police department, it was a punch in the face to a profession which has remained honorable since the founding of our country.”
The department has been working to improve its reputation through increased transparency and regular social media posts documenting what his officers experience day-to-day, Gardner said.
“This has been a devastating blow to the image of the East Cleveland Police Department,” he wrote. “We are now forced to once again, start from the bottom, and attempt to rebuild our reputation, all because two officers could not practice basic self-control.”
The matter remains under investigation, according to the sheriff’s department.
Cole and Warner-Simms were scheduled to appear in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Wednesday morning; however, that was continued, because one of the defendants has not yet been interviewed. Both men remain out on bond.
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