Complaints against West Chester police chief detail incidents of racial insensitivity, environment of fear of retaliation – WCPO

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WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Four human resources complaints filed against Police Chief Joel Herzog by his subordinates were released to WCPO Thursday evening. The documents allege several instances of inappropriate behavior on the part of the chief.

The complaints were filed during the past two weeks, and are in the process of being reviewed.

“The concerns and issues directed to the Administration and Human Resources are valued and taken seriously,” West Chester Township Administrator Larry Burks said in a statement to WCPO released with the complaints. “Each will be addressed and those making complaints are not being treated differently because they raised these concerns. Airing these accusations in the media and commenting on them without all the facts does a disservice to all involved and, in fact, minimizes the importance the Township places on them. The Police Chief is not a publicly elected position. His comments, rebuttals, perspectives will be shared first with those to whom he reports. The Board of Trustees is committed to doing what is fair and right. Comments and actions that are sexist or racist, or discriminatory in any way are not tolerated by this organization; and neither are actions counter to expectations in the performance of duties.”

The new complaints follow the release of a third-party investigation into Chief Herzog as the result of complaints filed by two captains. That investigation found Herzog made inappropriate comments regarding women, race, ethnicity and religion, and it recommended he be placed on a performance improvement program. The report also rebuked the two captains and said one of them lied to investigators. That captain has since retired.

One of the new complaints was filed by officer Charles Hawkins. It states that, while he was explaining a result of a genealogy DNA test, which highlighted his Puerto Rican and African heritage to a group of assembled officers, Herzog asked Hawkins if the results meant he counted as two minorities.

Hawkins states in the complaint that while he does not consider the chief to be racist, the comments are racially insensitive.

Another complaint is from officer Raymond Jones. He says he is the only Black officer on the West Chester Police Department, and details an encounter where Herzog questioned him regarding his hair.

In the complaint letter, Jones stated that he’s allowing it to grow out naturally and Herzog said that it was starting to look “ragged.” In the ensuing conversation in Herzog’s office, Jones said the chief admitted that there were several other white officers whose hair was longer than his, and he felt he was being singled out because of his race.

At the end of his complaint, Jones expressed concern that he would be passed over for promotion or retaliated against because he made a complaint against Herzog.

Another instance, by officer Michael Lopez, alleges that while presenting a letter for a job well done on a case, Herzog asked aloud, “is this for white Mike or brown Mike?” in a room containing eight to 10 other people.

Lopez states that he felt he had to “let it (the comment) go for fear of retaliation.”

Lopez later writes that Herzog apologized to him and said an investigation into the incident was almost concluded. In the text, Lopez wonders why he wasn’t contacted as part of any official investigation since he was the victim of the incident.

A fourth complaint from Lt. Chris Whitton shares concerns of Officer Lauren Bass regarding a sizing chart for female police uniforms. It states that a male supervisor, Sgt. McCalla, handed Bass a quiz for the sizing of her new uniforms provided by the uniform company that included questions like “paint us a picture of your body,” to which one of the answers was “my hips and booty talk a mean game.” Other questions such as “Which statement best describes my body?” included possible answers such as “Shapely!,” “Baby got back!” and “I’m a straight shot.”

Whitton said Office Bass asked Sgt. McCalla if the quiz was a joke and stated that some of the questions didn’t seem appropriate. In an interoffice memo, Sgt. McCalla wrote he felt the company was making a playful attempt at humor with their marketing, according to Whitton’s complaint.

Whitton also states that Chief Herzog had nothing to do with the incident. Also, for the purposes of any potential sexual harassment complaint, the chief appeared to have handled the incident in an appropriate manner. But Whitton says he was concerned about how the interoffice memo on the quiz was handled. Whitton says he felt the chief should have kept it in his office, given the nature of the subject matter. Instead, he filed it in his office at the direction of the Chief.

Both Whitton and Jones cite instances where they say Herzog told assembled West Chester officers to not arrest police officers from other municipalities for OVI offenses. Jones states that Herzog said he didn’t want the media attention associated with it. Whitton said the issue came up because of an incident where a Cincinnati police captain was arrested by a Loveland officer for driving while intoxicated.

Both men then go on to report that following meetings were held by supervisors who recommended that Herzog’s orders not be followed, and that no preferential treatment should be given to police officers during OVI stops.

Read each full complaint and the statement from the West Chester Township administrator below:

07.09.2020_West Chester Statement_Release of Complaints.docx by WCPO Web Team on Scribd

PRR 07.09.2020_Police Complaints 06.28 to 07.05.2020 by WCPO Web Team on Scribd

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