Vienna hires officer fired from Trumbull County jail
WARREN — The Vienna Township Police Department hired a part-time police officer who was fired from the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office for reasons including use of excessive force and dishonesty, according to internal files at the sheriff’s office.
Christopher Zadroski, 28, of Warren, was a corrections officer in the Trumbull County jail from January 2013 until September 2017, when he and another corrections officer were fired after an incident in the jail involving a suicidal inmate that also led to the suspension of several other corrections officers.
Although the union fought Zadroski’s termination, an arbitrator in 2018 upheld the firing, finding the sheriff’s office should have given him a hearing before letting him go, but the office was justified in firing Zadroski.
He was hired by Vienna trustees Phil Pegg, Heidi Brown and Richard Dascenzo during a regular meeting last month as a part-time police officer at $13.75 per hour and still is in a probationary period, said Vienna police Chief Bob Ludt.
Zadroski was paid $19.17 per hour when he was let go from the sheriff’s office, according to his personnel file. The file also contains letters seeking pre-employment requests for information from the sheriff’s office sent by Youngstown police in November and Niles police in January after Zadroski sought employment with the departments, the documents state. Zadroski is not eligible for rehire by the sheriff’s office, according to the documents.
Although a call to Youngstown police was not returned immediately Tuesday, Niles police confirmed Zadroski was not hired because of the incident for which he was fired and how recent it was.
When Zadroski was hired by the sheriff’s office in 2013, his mother and brother were listed as employees of the office, which was headed by former Sheriff Thomas Altiere at the time. Sheriff Paul Monroe took office at the beginning of 2017.
Zadroski had no experience in corrections or law enforcement and worked previously as lawn-care service representative, a cashier for a tobacco store and a dishwasher at a banquet hall, according to Zadroski’s employment application.
He completed the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission’s “full service facility corrections officer basic training program” through Kent State University’s corrections training academy in October 2013, after he was hired by the sheriff’s office.
The incident that led to the firings and suspensions began Aug. 24, 2017, when a corrections officer brought an inmate back to the jail after he attempted to commit suicide, according to information in an arbitrator’s report. The inmate was being held at the jail until a bed at a different treatment facility became available for the inmate.
The man still was acting suicidal and requested officers lock him up in a restraint chair in a booking area. Instead, the officers were ordered to take him to his cell and place him on suicide watch. But when the inmate was ordered to the elevator, he “went limp.” One of the corrections officers, Matthew Abbott, dragged the inmate by his shackles to the elevator and then dragged him off the elevator, by his shackles, bumping his head. Abbott, too, was fired.
While off camera, the inmate was held down by several correction officers and was struck several times. He then was moved back to the booking area and put into a restraint chair.
Jail leadership investigated the incident because the inmate was dragged by his shackles, a violation of policy. During the investigation, senior officers took reports and statements from the officers who were involved and who witnessed the incident.
Zadroski’s initial report gave no indication he himself used force against the inmate. But other statements from corrections officers claimed that while off-camera, Zadroski used force. He “administered two knee strikes to the inmate’s ribs / kidney area and struck him three times in the same area with a closed fist,” the documents state. The blows were given when the inmate was “on his stomach in handcuffs and shackles and was being held down by three corrections officers.” At another point off-camera, Zadroski “kicked the inmate in the abdomen as he laid on the floor in handcuffs and leg restraints.”
There were multiple reports Zadroski also called the inmate a derogatory term and “homophobic slurs,” an internal report states.
When Zadroski was interviewed again, he was asked if he left anything out of his initial report, and he said he had failed to mention giving two hits to the inmate’s thigh, to the peroneal nerve, to subdue him and simply had forgotten to include the detail.
RULES OF CONDUCT
The sheriff’s office found Zadroski had not been truthful and violated rules of conduct requiring honesty. Zadroski also was charged with violating the use-of-force rules for not interfering with Abbott’s handling of the inmate and for “administering blows to the inmate while he was handcuffed, shackled and subdued.” The office also found he violated the inmate’s civil rights and the sheriff’s office policies and procedures by “failing to control his temper or composure by overreacting to the inmate’s verbal comments.”
None of the officers were charged criminally. A federal civil suit brought by the inmate was settled privately, according to court documents.
Since leaving the sheriff’s office, Zadroski completed the Ohio Peace Officer training required to be a police officer, Ludt said.
Because Zadroski was accepted into the training program, passed its background checks and did well in the course, Ludt said he was comfortable giving Zadroski a chance. Zadroski may not have known some things taught in the peace officer course when he was a corrections officer, and the program has increased lessons on de-escalation tactics and guidance on the proper ways and scenarios to use force, Ludt said.
Zadroski only will go on calls with other officers while in his probationary and training period, Ludt said. A variety of officers will ride with him and give the chief their impressions of his work and ability to interact with people.
“We will be watching that, and if we don’t feel he is a good fit for the job, he won’t continue on with us — that is the purpose of a probationary period,” Ludt said. “After 43 years in law enforcement myself, and the many years of experience my other senior officers have, we know what to watch for.”