Officer in hot water over towing car

WARREN – The city’s police chief has levied several ethics and professional misconduct charges against a patrolman who has been on paid leave since July.

Eric Merkel, in a letter dated April 18 and released Monday, advised Reuben Shaw of the violations that resulted from an internal investigation.

Shaw is scheduled to appear at a predisciplinary hearing today. Merkel wrote that the purpose of the hearing is to give Shaw the opportunity to explain his alleged misconduct.

The chief charges that Shaw did not follow proper procedure on June 30, 2013, when he removed a 1969 Chevrolet Nova from a locked garage at a residential property at 2320 Kenwood Drive. Merkel wrote, “This removal was done without the authorization of the titled owner of the vehicle, and was done without permission or request of the property owner.”

Merkel also states that the internal investigation demonstrates that Shaw used his position as a Warren police officer to have May’s Towing transport the vehicle to a garage Shaw “controlled, as opposed to having the vehicle towed to an impound lot.”

Merkel charges that “these and other actions demonstrate engagement in private activities while on duty and while being paid as a City of Warren police officer.”

Shaw has also been the focus of a criminal investigation that include some of the same allegations. Last month, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation handed over its investigation into possible criminal charges to the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office. That case is still pending.

Merkel informed Shaw by letter in July that he was being put on paid leave pending ”any criminal and / or administrative investigations regarding the towing of a motor vehicle from private property.”

Merkel said he asked for BCI’s assistance because he was concerned the incident was a ”potentially criminal matter.”

Warren Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said the predisciplinary hearing, which was originally to be held earlier this week, was moved to today. He did not say why.

Merkel advised Shaw in the April 18 correspondence that the patrolman had violated these police ethics:

  • Utilization of Proper Means to Gain Proper Ends. The law enforcement officer shall be mindful of his / her responsibility to pay strict heed to the selection of means in discharging the duties of his / her office. Violations of law or disregard for the public safety and property on the part of an officer are intrinsically wrong; they are self-defeating in that they instill in the public mind like disposition. The employment of illegal means, no matter how worth the end, is certain to encourage disrespect for the law and its officers. If the law is to be honored, those who enforce it must first honor it.
  • Private Conduct. The law enforcement officer shall be mindful of his / her special identification by the public as an upholder of the law. Laxity of conduct or manner in private life, expressing either disrespect for the law or seeking to gain special privilege, cannot but reflect up on the police officer and the police service. The community and the service require that the law enforcement officer lead the life of a decent and honorable person. Following the career of a policeman / policewoman gives no member special privilege. It does give the satisfaction and pride of following and furthering an unbroken tradition of safeguarding the American public. The officer who retracts upon this tradition will not degrade it. Rather he / she will so conduct his / her private life that the public will regard him / her as an example of stability, fidelity and morality.

And these professional conduct and personal bearing policies:

  • Failure to observe and give effect to the policies of the department, constituting dereliction of duty by failing to observe and give effect to the policies of the department. Warren police policy calls for officers “to safeguard vehicles and their contents while in police custody and to protect officers and the department against claims of damaged, stolen or lost property …”
  • No officer shall, while in the course of duty, utilize his / her position as a police officer to gain an advantage in personal matters.
  • No employee shall violate any local, state or federal law. Violation of any such law shall be grounds for disciplinary action.

Also, responsibilities and general conduct on duty:

  • An officer is prohibited from conducting private business while on duty.