The termination of two Warren police officers this month might be an indication that the city administration will be less tolerant of under-performing public employees.
Officer Jeffery Miller was arrested for violating the terms of his probation. That sentence right there should be a non-sequitur. A police officer with a probation officer is just plain wrong.
But tolerance in Warren's police department had long been the norm.
On March 20 Miller received a court order to attend a 28-day alcohol program and undergo alcohol and drug counseling.
Miller was previously arrested on charges of domestic violence Nov. 17, 2010. He missed work while in jail. A Niles judge later dismissed those charges.
Miller was also arrested Sept. 22, 2011, in Boardman by the Ohio State Highway Patrol on a charge of operating a motorized vehicle while impaired. At the time, Miller refused to take a breath test. The arrest caused him to miss work from Sept. 24 to Sept. 27.
In a letter to Miller, police Chief Timothy Bowers said the officer, because of the most recent incident, had failed his oath of office by violating, instead of upholding, the law; failed to uphold the department's ethics policies; and was absent without leave from Nov. 17 to 20 due to his arrest.
That describes the other incidents cited above, yet Miller always stayed on the job. Something is different this time.
In 2009, former officer Manny Nites coached 14 youth basketball games at least one as far as an hour outside city limits while on duty. Three of his supervisors also were disciplined for their role in allowing him to falsify payroll records.
Immediately after the payroll scandal broke, Nites coached his son's Little League baseball team on a night that he called off sick.
Prior to that, Nites was recorded using racial slurs in a video recording made outside of a nightclub frequented by African-Americans.
All of that seems to fit the fireable offenses that Bowers cited in the Miller case, yet Nites survived. Until this year when Nites was caught attending a fantasy football draft while on duty and then telling a falsehood to cover up. Bowers fired him.
Again, Something is different this time.
Maybe it's a new outlook for Mayor Doug Franklin, who as safety / service director showed leniency. For example, to help Nites coach basketball while on duty, Sgt. Michael Albanese falsified records and then falsified records again as a cover-up attempt, and Lt. Eric Merkel didn't even show up at his grievance hearing. Franklin, then the safety/service director, called their actions fraud but would not press charges.
Perhaps it's a new tact for Bowers. In dealing Nites a lenient punishment for the basketball coaching, Bowers said his hands were tied because the department had no discipline for nine years, and union rules would prevent it. The union rules haven't changed.
Maybe it's Safety/Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa, the new kid on the block. If Cantalamessa backs Bowers, he'll have taken a harsher stand against wrongdoing than his predecessor and current boss.
Hopefully the terminations this month put an end to past practice and furthers along a renewal of integrity in one of the places it's needed most - a law enforcement agency.