Investigation of officer nearing end

WARREN – State investigators said last week their probe into whether a city police officer acted criminally is “nearing completion.”

Meanwhile, for more than six months, the city has continued to pay Warren Police Officer Reuben Shaw his weekly wages while he’s been on paid administrative leave.

Shaw’s hourly rate is $23.97. During a typical 40-hour work week he earns roughly $960, plus benefits. From the time he was placed on paid leave in July through the end of the 2013 he collected about $26,000 nearly half of his annual pay of $53,570. To date he has received almost $28,000 since he went on leave. He earned $57,299.52 in 2012.

Once the BCI investigation is completed, Shaw could continue to collect a pay from the city if he remains on leave as the administration completes it own, internal investigation.

“I sat down with our law department and human resources to come up with the best and appropriate plan while this process takes place,” Warren Police Chief Eric Merkel said. “There are union issues that have had to be addressed regarding his pay, and we’ve worked within that.”

Merkel said he continues to meet with the city law department regularly on the matter.

Merkel officially informed Shaw in a letter in July that he would remain on paid leave pending the outcome of “any criminal and / or administrative investigations regarding the towing of a motor vehicle from private property.”

Merkel asked the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the investigative arm of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, to look into the matter because he was concerned that the incident was a “potentially criminal matter.”

Shaw has remained on paid administrative leave since.

Merkel said immediately after Shaw went on leave the city police department saw an increase in overtime payments made to other officers to cover his shift and responsibilities. However, Merkel explained that the increases were minimal because most of the overtime was earned during later shifts and Shaw typically worked days.

The chief explained that his department also adjusted schedules to compensate for Shaw’s absence. In early November, the police department established a new schedule that reflects Shaw’s absence.

He said some of the overtime in his department last year, significantly more than the previous year, can be attributed to the absence of several officers who were off work for various reasons, or terminated. The city has fired at least three officers since December 2012 including Manny Nites, David Gallagher and Jeffery Miller. However, Nites was later reinstated.

Miller was terminated in December 2012 for failing to follow the terms of his probation. He had a previous arrest in connection with drinking and driving as well as domestic violence. Nites also was terminated in December 2012 after it was learned he participated in a fantasy football league event while he was on duty. He previously was cited for coaching youth basketball games while on duty.

Gallagher was fired in May 2013 after officials determined he was unable to perform the necessary physical activity required of the job.

The city’s investigation into whether Shaw violated any police policies or procedures has remained on hold pending the completion of BCI’s probe because the two cannot overlap, city officials said.

Reports state that Shaw, while on duty for the police department, is accused of illegally towing a car to his private property without the automobile owner’s permission.

Shaw’s case is one of two investigations handed over to BCI investigators last year. Earlier this month, BCI handed findings of its investigation into the Oct. 19 police-involved shooting that killed a 24-year-old city man over to Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins for his review. BCI officials said they did not give Watkins a recommendation in that case, but left it up to his office to make a determination. That case technically is still open pending the prosecutor’s decision, explained Jill Del Greco, a spokesperson in DeWine’s office. She confirmed BCI expects to finish its investigation on Shaw soon.

Shaw has been with the city police department since Aug. 14, 1989.

Records show that the city has taken issue with actions by the veteran officer since shortly after he was hired, ranging from questions of frequent tardiness to recklessness with his police weapon.

For example, Shaw agreed in May 2011 to reimburse the police department $519 to replace his weapon after it was stolen from under the front seat of his truck. Former Warren police Chief Timothy Bowers noted in a letter to Shaw that Shaw “recklessly took the risk of having the weapon stolen” when he made the decision to place his duty belt and weapon under the front seat of the truck instead of securing it in the locker provided by the police department.

In May 2012, Shaw was suspended for one day without pay after running out of gas while driving his cruiser to an off-duty job. In that case, Shaw called May’s Towing, which billed the city $35. The suspension was for failing to notify the department that he was working a side job, according to Shaw’s record.

In a letter dated April 11, 2012, Bowers informed Shaw that any further violations of police department policy “will result in progressive punishment that may include discharge.”