Officer involved in Tamir Rice case disciplined for derogatory remarks, misconduct: ‘That’s your people’s music’

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 5:46 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 Investigates uncovered one of the two Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was suspended by CPD for nearly a month due to police misconduct.

Cleveland’s public safety director called it a “gross neglect of duty.”

Cleveland Police suspended Officer Frank Garmback III, also known as Frank Garmback Sr., for 25 days.

That’s five times longer than the suspension he served for his role in the Tamir Rice case.

According to internal affairs reports, Garmback Sr. violated more than a dozen of the police department’s rules and procedures while working at his part-time job.

Officer Garmback Sr. is the veteran Cleveland police officer who drove the patrol car in November 2014, stopping just feet away from 12-year-old Tamir Rice, before his partner, Timothy Loehmann, jumped out and fired the shots that killed the boy.

The two officers were responding to a call for a male waving a gun.

You can read more about what happened here.

Garmback Sr. and Loehmann faced no criminal charges.

Garmback Sr. later served a five-day suspension for “employing improper tactics.”

Cleveland Police Officer Frank Garmback Sr.
Cleveland Police Officer Frank Garmback Sr.(WOIO)
The internal affairs investigation

19 Investigates learned Officer Garmback Sr. faced an internal investigation by police again more than six years after the Tamir Rice case, starting March 2021.

This involved his part-time job at Pull-A-Part junkyard on W. 130th St. near I-71 where he worked security while off-duty.

The incidents go back to the spring of 2020 through March 2021.

According to CPD documents, four employees working with Garmback Sr. reported a pattern of intimidation and complained he made derogatory comments about Hispanics.

A manager reported their concerns to Cleveland Police.

We are protecting the employees’ identities.

19 Investigates got a hold of police body camera footage showing a Sgt. with CPD Internal Affairs interviewing those employees.

One woman said music was playing one day when Officer Garmback Sr. walked in.

“He screamed out ‘I don’t want to hear this Mexican music.’ It wasn’t me playing it, but he looked toward me. So he grabbed the radio and took it to me, and I said, ‘I’m not playing that, it was him.’ And he was like, ‘oh, I assumed it was you.’ So I was like, ‘why because I’m Spanish?’ And I’m not Mexican, I’m Puerto Rican,” the employee said.

Several employees said they were offended by other comments Garmback Sr. made.

Internal affairs interviewed a man over the phone who told him he wrote down what Garmback Sr. said one day.

“‘Those kinds of people driving those kinds of cars,’” a second employee told the internal affairs officer.

“He was referring to Puerto Rican or Spanish people driving Hondas and Acuras. Just being racist with the customers,” he said.

These employees also said Garmback Sr. harassed them by running their license plates for no reason.

“Randomly we having a conversation [sic] and then he comes out of nowhere, ‘hey, who’s car is that?’ And like—startles me because the conversation, where did that come from? ‘Yeah that truck doesn’t belong to you’ and I’m like, I don’t get where this is going at, you know,” a third employee said during a police interview.

“I felt violated. You supposed to be here to protect us, why are you running my plates?” a fourth employee said during a phone interview with internal affairs.

“You didn’t run nobody else’s plates in here but me, one of the cashiers, another one of the cashiers and ---- . He only ran our license plates, the only three minorities in the building,” he said.

Dozens of documents we obtained from Cleveland Police show a thorough, nine-month long investigation by internal affairs.

According to internal affairs reports, CPD ultimately found Garmback Sr. guilty of 14 department violations, including making “derogatory remarks” against his fellow civilian employees.

The investigation also found some of these incidents happened while Garmback Sr. was on duty, and he failed to activate his body camera and document daily reports while “conducting license plate inquiries” with citizens at Pull-A-Part.

“His job is to make us as comfortable as possible to be here, and that completely went left,” one of the employees said during an interview with internal affairs.

The internal affairs investigation into police misconduct included an interview with Garmback Sr.

He had union representation with him during the interview, which took place in October 2021.

19 Investigates got a copy of the video through public records. It is nearly an hour long.

It gives the public a rare look inside police investigating their own.

“Any self-incriminating information you disclose, will not be used against you in a court of law,” the internal affairs officer read at the beginning of the interview.

One of the first things they went over included the allegations about the music playing.

“I don’t remember the exact-- those words, but that that did not happen like that at all,” Garmback Sr. said.

He denied several accusations employees made, over and over.

“‘They all drive those kinds of cars,’ referring to the Hispanics that work there. Do you remember any type of conversation?” an internal affairs officer asked him.

“I don’t recall that,” Garmback Sr. said.

“Have you ever threatened employees to give them tickets if they did not resolve these matters?” an officer questioned.

“Never, never,” Garmback Sr. said.

A handful of audits combed through Garmback Sr.’s movements while he was on duty to see whether he was looking up employee license plates on the dates they complained about.

The investigation also found Garmback Sr. shared his LEADS password with his son, Frank Garmback Jr.

Garmback Jr. is also a Cleveland Police officer who worked part-time at the junkyard.

LEADS allows law enforcement to look up someone’s criminal history.

“There was a time when your son Frank Jr. was having problems signing on and you let him use your password,” an internal affairs officer asked him during the interview.

“Yes, absolutely,” Garmback Sr. said.

“Is that a violation of the policy?” he asked.

“I believe so,” Garmback Sr. replied.

In the interview, Garmback Sr. summed up why he believed these employees complained about him.

“Honestly, I do think this is a witch hunt between new employees there. I’ve had no problems over the years that I’ve had here. Any personnel there, I go above and beyond for these employees. I don’t cite them. If anything I warn them. I don’t cite employees because why make it bad for me when I got to work with these people every day? I don’t know if they ran my name and some people might not like it, the incident I was in. I’m not gonna go in depth with it, because-- [inaudible] but I don’t know if that’s a vendetta or not,” Garmback Sr. said.

Police union responds

We reached out to Jeff Follmer, president of the police union, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association (CPPA).

He told us the officers couldn’t talk due to policy, but he spoke with us.

“At the time Officer Garmback had some concerns on things going on there as far as some infractions, he ran some plates. We’re not saying everything was right, but we’re not saying-- you know, he was still working within a police function,” Follmer said.

We asked him about the investigation’s findings that Garmback Sr. did not turn on his body camera and file the proper reports several times when he was on duty.

“Officers need to know what they have to do, and he should have known better on these things,” Follmer said.

Follmer said sharing his LEADS password with his son wasn’t malicious.

“So is it wrong? Yes. Was it harmful? No, it was still for a police function,” he said.

We asked if citizens should feel confident with Garmback Sr. still on the job.

Follmer said “absolutely.”

“You know, he’s had a good career. He’s been an asset to the community. He always shows up to work. Not much discipline, you know, he’s been a good officer,” he said.

Outcome of the case

The city prosecutor declined to press criminal charges in this case.

Garmback Jr. received a 10-day, unpaid suspension for misuse of LEADS and working a second job without CPD approval.

Both officers served their suspensions last spring and no longer work at Pull-A-Part.

Garmback Sr. had to be re-trained in four areas when he returned from his 25-day suspension in spring 2022.

19 Investigates reached out to Cleveland Police and Mayor Justin Bibb for a comment on this case, we are still waiting to hear back and we will post any updates we receive.

You can read Garmback Sr.’s suspension letter below.