A Clay Township police officer is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 11 on 27 felony charges.
Ralph Cierpial, 36, of St. Clair, is being charged with 27 counts of unlawfully granting pistol safety training certificates, a four-year felony.
Online court records show Cierpial will be arraigned on the charges at 2 p.m. Dec. 11 in front of Magistrate S. Keith Bankson.
“Obviously our concern is when a person chooses to carry a concealed weapon and chooses to do that to protect themselves, the state and, frankly, local law enforcement are interested in making sure they have the right level of training to do that,” Prosecutor Mike Wendling said.
Cierpial was a National Rifle Association certified instructor and charged for the service, Wendling said. After questionable training certificates were brought to the county gun board, an investigation was started.
Wendling said more than 300 people were interviewed and every certificate issued by Cierpial was reviewed.
“The fact that he happens to be a police officer happens to be of no relevance to us,” Wendling said. “I won’t say it’s not disappointing, but it’s not relevant.”
Clay Township Supervisor Artie Bryson said Cierpial is on administrative duty and does not have his gun or badge.
“On Nov. 14, 2013, Clay Township received notification from the St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling that the St. Clair County Sheriff Department obtained a twenty-seven (27) count felony warrant for Ralph Cierpial,” Bryson said in an email. “The warrant is for unlawfully granting/presenting-pistol training certificate.
“To keep the integrity of the Clay Township Police Department in place and the seriousness of the allegations, Officer Cierpial was immediately taken off of street duties and placed on administrative duties. Depending on pending adjudication of court proceedings, appropriate actions will be swiftly taken.”
Bryson said the township will handle the situation appropriately.
“Basically, he’s innocent until he’s proven guilty, and like we said, it’s an unfortunate situation, but we’re going to deal with it appropriately once there’s a determination on his guilt,” Bryson said.
Clay Township Police Chief Don Drake said Cierpial has been a full-time officer for about two years.
“We always assume he’s innocent until proven guilty,” Drake said.
Cierpial did not respond to an email requesting comment. His lawyer, Daniel Garon, could not be reached for comment.
Ranking Midlothian Police Officer Charged with Federal Civil Rights Violations Involving Alleged Use of Excessive Force
Chicago, IL- A south suburban Midlothian Police officer was indicted on federal civil rights charges alleging that he used excessive force against two different victims in separate beating incidents in 2010 and 2011. The defendant, Steven G. Zamiar, was indicted on two counts of violating the victims’ civil right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer. The two-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury yesterday and was announced today by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Zamiar, 46, of Midlothian, joined the Midlothian Police Department in 2000. He was a detective sergeant at the time of the alleged beating in 2010 and was deputy chief when the alleged beating occurred in 2011. He was later demoted to lieutenant and was placed on paid administrative leave this past September. He will be arraigned on a date yet to be scheduled in U.S. District Court.
According to the indictment, on September 6, 2010, when he was a detective sergeant, Zamiar used excessive force, resulting in bodily injury, against Victim A. On November 24, 2011, when he was deputy chief of the Midlothian Police Department, Zamiar allegedly used excessive force, resulting in bodily injury, against Victim B. During the November 2011 incident, Zamiar allegedly used, attempted to use, and threatened to use a dangerous weapon.
Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Otlewski.
An indictment contains merely charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
A California borough police officer who had been suspended earlier this year now is accused of assaulting a handcuffed suspect.
Chief Rick Encapera on Monday charged full-time Officer Justin Shultz, 29, of Connellsville, with misdemeanor counts of official oppression and simple assault.
The charges stem from an alleged early morning incident Nov. 9 involving Shultz and suspect Adam Logan, 27, of California.
Encapera said Logan was in custody at the police station around 3 a.m. awaiting arraignment on charges related to an alleged purse snatching.
Logan was standing in the holding cell, handcuffed behind his back and secured to a bench with a leg shackle, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Encapera showed The Valley Independent footage from video surveillance inside the station, which shows Logan appearing to continuously bicker with Shultz and two other officers as Shultz finished searching him.
The video shows the three officers leaving the cell and Logan continuing to chatter out the cell door. That's when it appears Shultz walked back in, grabbed Logan by the throat, pinned him against the wall and shook him twice.
Shultz then allegedly pulled Logan toward him and slammed him to the bench and floor. Logan appeared to be in what Encapera described as “substantial pain.”
On Nov. 18, Logan waived his right to a preliminary hearing on robbery, simple assault and other charges for the alleged purse snatching. He remains in the Washington County Correctional Facility in lieu of $10,000 bond.
Encapera said he viewed the video and sent an email to Shultz on Nov. 11 telling him not to come to work. The chief said he followed that up with a written letter telling Shultz he was off the work schedule.
Encapera said Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone recently reviewed the video and advised the chief to file charges.
“I've been a cop for 36 years, and I've gotten mad, but you never do anything like this,” Encapera said. “Once you handcuff someone, the game is over.”
Encapera said his department often uses leg shackles for arrestees because they are often highly intoxicated and will run into cell walls and later claim mistreatment by officers.
The chief said he did not want to give the department “a black eye,” but felt there was little choice but to file charges against Shultz.
“This is not something you can just sweep under the carpet,” Encapera said. “When you get a complaint from someone who was arrested, you have to take it with a grain of salt.
“You have to let them go through the court proceeding, and if they don't file a formal complaint, I can't do anything. ... In this instance (Logan) was secured. It was definitely mistreating somebody.”
Borough council will ultimately determine whether Shultz is terminated.
Encapera said he took Shultz off street patrol and placed him on “administrative duties” in May after receiving “numerous informal complaints” regarding Shultz's conduct.
On May 13, council suspended Shultz and officer Terry Childs without pay after the two returned an unmarked vehicle to Washington, Pa., May 3 during a Friday night shift.
Their action left the borough with just one available officer. The trip was not authorized, Encapera said.
While Shultz and Childs were away, a fight erupted outside Sigz Bistro, a business on Second Street. The brawl required back up from four neighboring police departments.
Encapera said Childs submitted a letter of resignation, effective Dec. 1.
With Shultz off the schedule, California is down to four working full-time officers.
AUBURN — The Auburn Police Department confirmed Tuesday morning the identity of an officer who was suspended for three days after being involved in an on-duty crash while he responded to a bank alarm in his police cruiser Nov. 20.
The Auburn Board of Works learned of the suspension at its Nov. 27 meeting. At that time, Capt. Mark Stump declined to the identify the suspended officer when asked by a reporter.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau has fired two white police officers who scuffled with a group of black men, then used racial slurs while berating local police investigating last summer’s incident in Green Bay, Wis., according to sources close to the Police Department.
The firings of officers Brian Thole and Shawn Powell, both military veterans who were on the department’s SWAT team, will kick off an automatic appeals process that could last a year, according to a lawyer familiar with such cases. The officers have been on paid administrative leave since July.
At least one of the officers also disparaged Harteau as a lesbian in the June 29 incident, which was partly recorded on video and described in a 40-page Green Bay Police Department report. The officers, who were off-duty, were not charged with any crime in Green Bay, but the department there reported the incident to the Minneapolis department, prompting the internal affairs process that led to Tuesday’s firing.
Ron Edwards, a longtime Minneapolis civil rights activist, applauded Harteau’s decision. “She is sending a message that disrespect under her leadership will not be tolerated and I commend her for her courage,” he said.
When it first came to light, the incident brought immediate condemnation from city, police and union leaders. The Star Tribune learned days later that at least three more Minneapolis officers had been cited for assault months before for a similar incident in Apple Valley.
The two cases ignited a round of public recriminations of the department and reawakened simmering complaints of racial intolerance by police officers. Prominent community activists held a news conference on the front steps of City Hall to call for a U.S. Justice Department audit of the department.
Harteau said at the time that she would review the department’s training and hiring practices. She also pledged to expand a citizens advisory council to rebuild trust with the community, inviting cultural and faith leaders to meet with the group that she had created soon after becoming chief one year ago.
The meetings, which Harteau said would ultimately produce a plan to improve community relations, have been held in private.
Harteau was not immediately available Tuesday to talk about her community plan.
Lengthy appeals process
In a news release, Harteau said she informed the officers of her decision Tuesday but could not release it publicly because of privacy laws. Two sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed to the Star Tribune that the two men were fired.
Because the two officers are both veterans and union members, they have two appeals options.
They can challenge their dismissal through the traditional union procedures, provided under the union contract with the Minneapolis Police Federation. Union leaders Tuesday declined to discuss the reported firings.
Or, they can appeal under procedures created under the state’s Veterans Preference Act.
They can use only one of the two procedures. They have three weeks to decide whether to file a grievance under the union contract, or 60 days to decide whether they wish to file under the Veterans Preference Act. Sources indicated Tuesday that the officers had not decided which route to take.
If they appeal under the union contract, an arbitrator will decide whether to uphold their termination or put them back to work.
If they use the Veterans Act, either a civil service panel or a panel of three people, one member selected by the veteran, one selected by the Police Department, who together pick a third person, will conduct a hearing and reach a decision by majority vote. There is a period of discovery before the hearing to conduct witness interviews and gather evidence. If a veteran disagrees with the panel’s decision, he can appeal to state district court.
The process could take a year and the appealing officer would be paid until a decision is reached under the Veterans Act. In a union procedure, officers could be awarded back pay if the firing is overturned.
Just weeks before the Green Bay case, three off-duty Minneapolis police officers — William C. Woodis, Christopher J. Bennett and Andrew R. Allen — were wrapping up court proceedings related to an alleged assault during a fight on Nov. 19, 2012, outside an Apple Valley bar. The white officers were among a group of white men who followed a group of black men into the parking lot of Bogart’s Place, knocking one of them down and beating him, according to the Apple Valley police report. The black men said the Minneapolis officers used racial slurs.
Woods and Bennett plead guilty to disorderly conduct; charges against Allen were dismissed. The three officers are still the subjects of an Internal Affairs investigation.
The question of how Minneapolis disciplines police officers has been under renewed scrutiny after the Apple Valley and Green Bay incidents. According to a Star Tribune analysis, the city of Minneapolis made $14 million in payouts for alleged police misconduct between 2006 and 2012, but the Police Department rarely concluded that the officers involved did anything wrong.
Citing that record, community activist Mel Reeves said he considered Tuesday’s decision a first step.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but we will know they are really serious when they start punishing cops who are guilty of brutalizing people,” he said.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that a police officer who complained about his department's safety standards is not entitled to First Amendment protection of his speech.
Former Eugene officer Brian Hagen complained about four incidents in which Eugene police SWAT team members accidentally fired their weapons and, in two of those incidents, shot and injured another officer.
Hagen complained to a superior numerous times and was transferred as a result. He sued, challenging the transfer as retaliation against his whistleblowing, and won $250,000 in a federal jury trial in March 2012.
Eugene police appealed, arguing that Hagen was not entitled to First Amendment protection because he made his remarks as part of his job duties as a public employee.
This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with the police department and reversed the verdict.
"Hagen's concerns," wrote Judge Arthur L. Alarcon, "contain all the hallmarks of traditionally internal workplace complaints one would typically expect an officer to communicate to his superiors."
It's a break with another opinion written by Alarcon in 2009, in which he said Baltimore, Md., police commanders violated the First Amendment rights of an officer who leaked an internal memo to The Sun newspaper in Baltimore. The difference is that Hagen didn't bring his concerns outside the department, while the Baltimore officer did, thus entitling him to First Amendment protections as a private citizen.
David Fidanque, executive director of ACLU Oregon, said the ruling reemphasizes the problematic situation in which public employees find themselves, especially when they follow the chain of command.
"My gut feeling is that it's a difficult standard to meet the First Amendment claim for a public employee," Fidanque said, "particularly one who does what an employee would be expected to do, which is raise the complaint to their supervisors."
The problems at the Eugene Police Department date back to at least the late 1990s, when SWAT members began to accidentally fire their weapons. Sometimes they hit their own, like in 2001, when a police sniper accidentally shot a sergeant during a SWAT operation.
Hagen joined the department in 2004 and, a year later, a SWAT officer attempting to pull the pin on a flash-bang grenade accidentally pulled the trigger on his rifle. It was aimed at the ground and no one was hurt.
Hagen, who worked with the department's police dogs, and two other department dog handlers complained to their supervisor. Two years later, in January 2007, a SWAT officer again accidentally fired his rifle while climbing a fence and, this time, hit another officer.
Hagen and the other dog handlers again complained to their supervisor. When they pressed, the sergeant "became irritated and expressed frustration that the issue was being raised again."
Again in April 2007, a SWAT officer accidentally fired his weapon during a search warrant in a residential neighborhood. Hagen sent an email to sergeants with the dog and SWAT teams, asking for a meeting to discuss the safety issues. Three days after the email, the department's police chief suspended SWAT operations for about three weeks.
The SWAT sergeant, Tom Eichhorn, attempted to transfer Hagen for "passive insubordination" and, when that failed, began to write him up for job performance concerns that Eichhorn admitted in court "he had previously regarded positively or neutrally."
Hagen stopped reporting safety concerns to Eichhorn and was transferred in May 2009. He sued the department in April 2010.
A Brooklyn man is suing the NYPD after he was cuffed earlier this year when cops confused breath mints he was carrying for ecstasy pills, according to news reports.
According to the suit filed last week in federal court, 46-year-old Robert Hankins was falsely arrested in April after police found the breath mints in his pocket and accused him of having drugs, the The Smoking Gun and the New York Post both report.
Hankins was booked on drug possession charges and spent about 30 hours in police custody, the papers report. Prosecutors later dropped the charges after discovering the purported drugs were actually Pow-brand energy mints.
"Fresh breath is not a crime. It’s unthinkable that mints from Walgreens could be confused for Ecstasy pills. All the officers needed to do was smell them. They’re wintergreen,” Hankins’ attorney told the Post.
It’s not the first time NYPD officers have confused candy for drugs, according to The Smoking Gun. In October, a man filed a civil rights lawsuit against the department after he was arrested when officers mistook blue and red Jolly Ranchers for methamphetamine.
A Schaumburg police officer was sentenced in Cook County court today to 18 months probation after he admitted he kept a handgun that two village residents had turned into the police department for safe disposal.
Bryan Woodyard, 39, of the 7400 block of Dixon Street in Schaumburg pleaded guilty to official misconduct during a hearing at the Criminal Courts Building. He had faced up to five years in prison for the class 3 felony.
Authorities said Woodyard was working on the department’s front desk in April when he accepted a .22 caliber revolver from the residents who wanted to dispose of it. Woodyard at first tried to buy the gun but the residents insisted it be destroyed, authorities said.
Several days later, one of the residents told Woodyard’s superiors she was uncomfortable with the way the officer had handled the situation, authorities said.
Police began an investigation and found that Woodyard had not reported the incident and kept the handgun for personal use, authorities said. A seven-year veteran of the department, Woodyard subsequently resigned and was arrested in June.
Woodyard was the fourth Schaumburg police officer to resign this year for alleged misconduct. Three other former officers are awaiting trial on charges they kept cash and sold narcotics they had seized from drug dealers.