Edon Council Approves Police Department Investigation

By: James Pruitt
THE VILLAGE REPORTER

An investigation of the Edon Police Department has been authorized by the Village Council after a contentious meeting May 24.

The council, by a 4-2 vote, approved a motion by Council member Andy Ledyard for an internal investigation by an outside agency. What that will entail is up in the air and will be decided by Mayor Duane Thiel at a later date.

The motion came during Police Chief Tom Szymczak’s report which included updates on staffing. The chief informed council Monica Herman was leaving the force for a full-time job in Hicksville.

Another part-time officer, eight-year veteran Jimmy Eaton, has retired from his job at a prison in Michigan and is taking a new position as a police officer at Owens Community College in Perrysburg.

Szymczak could not say if either officer would be able to fill any shifts at all. It will be six months minimum for Eaton, he said.

The department has now lost four officers recently who left for full-time law enforcement positions elsewhere.

The chief said that’s par for the course given the low pay and hours Edon can offer.

The chief ran an ad in the Bryan Times for 2 ½ weeks which yielded two responses.

The losses leave the department with two or three part-timers who can cover 18 hours on the weekend, the chief said. The crunch has led him to adjust the schedule and use his full-time officer on the weekends.

“Scott and I can’t do it all,” Szymczak said.

The department used to have as many as nine part-time officers back when the village had a population close to 1,000 when two factories were humming along. Those days are gone and the department has shrunk.

The new hire won’t affect the 18 hours approved by council.

Ledyard said there are several issues he sees in the police department and he wants an outside agency to conduct a thorough investigation.

Council approved one of two candidates for part-time positions put forth by Szymczak to replace two people who are leaving for better-paying jobs. The new officer, John Rathge will be hired in at $11.28 pending him passing his final exam at Northwest State Community College.

There was some sparring between the chief and Council members Lee Lawrence and Ledyard over reviewing policies. The chief did not want to discuss them in public and asked for an executive session to do so. Lawrence disputed Szymczak’s contention which dealt with policies about use of force.

Lawrence cited an attorney from the Ohio Municipal League who said police manuals should be approved by local councils, so communities can hold the police chief accountable if something goes awry.

“You cannot be your own god,” Lawrence said.

Szymczak has tweaked the policies to reflect modern police practices – and Lawrence didn’t dispute it or argue with it. Lawrence was worried about liability if the chief used deadly force.

Council member Gale Horn said the state attorney general would come in make that determination just as was done in Cleveland.

“That’s what we have a court system for,” Horn said.

According to the village attorney, it is the village and not the council that is held responsible for actions of any of its employees.

It was at this juncture Ledyard made his motion, which council member Mike Liriot seconded.

“There seems to be a lot of mistrust,” Lawrence said.

A motion to go into executive session failed when only Dick Chapin and Horn supported the motion.

James Pruitt may be reached at
publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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