Four to test for Warren police chief

WARREN – Four people are vying to replace retiring police Chief Timothy Bowers.

Capt. Janice Gilmore, Lt. Eric Merkel, Lt. Martin Gargas and Lt. Robert Massucci will be taking the chief’s test later this month.

Bowers will retire June 18, but the 34-year career police officer still has some vacation time that he plans to use.

“I have not determined how I will use the time,” Bowers said. “There are still things I want to accomplish before I leave, one of which is to do as much as I can to complete the memorandum of agreement with the Department of Justice.”

The police department reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in January 2012 to provide better documentation and review its use-of-force policies, including when force is appropriate, reporting of it, and techniques to de-escalate situations. It also was supposed to place citizen complaint procedures online.

The justice department reviewed police policies following complaints of brutality and illegal strip searches.

“We have been re-doing our policies and procedures,” Bowers said. “The policies have been written and rewritten. I am confident that the draft of the use-of-force policies that we are in right now will be the final use-of-force policy.”

The justice department found what it called reasonable cause to believe Warren police engaged “in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.”

The latest report was submitted to the justice department on Thursday.

Also before he leaves, Bowers hopes that the appeal processes for the two police officers discharged in December – Manny Nites and Jeffrey Miller – will be completed.

Bowers dismissed Miller after Miller was charged with violating terms of his probation. He previously had been ordered to attend an alcohol program following his arrest in 2011 on a charge of operating a motor vehicle while impaired.

The chief fired Nites on claims that Nites attended a fantasy football draft while on duty then lied about it.

Bowers said he would like to see new officers hired to replenish the ranks and to see City Council pass legislation aimed at reducing the number of false alarms calls to which officers must respond.

Bowers earned a gross income of $107,624 in 2012, according to the city’s auditor’s office. Included is $20,078 pay for sick, vacation and other accumulated time earned.

The city has been seeking applicants for chief since December. It initially opened the application to captains, but only Gilmore applied. More than one person must take the test.

Last month, the city opened up the pool of applicants to include lieutenants.

Sergeant and captain tests will be given in March 21.

The candidates:

  • Gilmore joined the police department in January 1989. She was promoted to sergeant in 1995, to lieutenant in December 2000, and to captain in 2008. She heads the detective bureau.

With overtime, Gilmore earned a gross income of $87,228 in 2012.

  • Merkel, who has been with the department 1995, became a sergeant in 2003 and was promoted lieutenant in 2008. He is in charge of the department’s support services division.

Merkel was given a 10-day suspension by Bowers for allowing Nites to go to his son’s basketball game for 30 to 40 minutes on March 3, 2009, without turning in a leave form and for destroying evidence. The suspension eventually was eliminated by an arbitrator’s ruling that determined Bowers had not given proper notice that he was changing past department policies. Merkel was given a written reprimand.

In 2012, he earned a gross income of $81,563.

  • Massucci initially worked in the city’s water pollution control department when he was hired by the city. A year later, he joined the police department. By September 1999, Massucci became a sergeant and earned the rank lieutenant in February 2009. He is in charge of the department’s midnight shift.

The city settled a lawsuit filed by city resident LaShawn Ziegler that alleged that in April 2002, Massucci and Patrolman Timothy Ladner illegally strip-searched and harassed him.

In 2012, Massucci earned a gross salary of $82,504.

  • Gargas was hired by the department in 1989. He earned his sergeant’s stripes in July 1996 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2010. He is in charge of the afternoon shift.

Gargas was given a three-day suspension in October 1996 for misrepresenting facts about a Dec. 9, 1995, incident involving another patrolman. Gargas eventually admitted to the misrepresentation.

Gargas earned a gross income of $92,047 in 2012.