SIDNEY — A request for council to review and release an independent report conducted for the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office regarding the conduct of former Sidney Police Sgt. Warren Melerine was made during the public comments portion of Monday evening’s Sidney City Council meeting.
Former Sidney Police Sgt. Joshua Divens put forth the request and gave council a short synopsis of the incident that occurred on May 23, 2017, which led to Melerine being fired from the Sidney Police Department (SPD).
Melerine was terminated on July 14, 2017, for excessive use of force after he fired a “bean bag” shotgun and struck a white male during an incident in May 2017. Melerine appealed his termination, but the decision was upheld by an independent arbitrator.
Divens was also terminated from SPD on May 17, 2019, for “policy and other violations,” according to Sidney Police Chief Will Balling.
Monday Divens told council it “was recently revealed” that Balling received the independent report from the prosecutor’s office three days prior to arbitration but the police administration kept the information in the report a secret and covered up. Divens claimed it, “reportedly, stated Sgt. Melerine’s conduct that night had not been criminal, and no charges would be filed, as the police administration had requested.” Divens also told council the police report, video and audio were forwarded to a “highly respected use of force expert” who determined the use of force was appropriate and that the officers did nothing wrong that night.
Divens said the information within the report was not revealed to Melerine or the arbitrator. Afterward, Divens said, along with Melerine, two other senior officers, who were present May 23, 2017, later voluntarily resigned from SPD to join another law enforcement agency, also in Shelby County.
At least three requests to obtain the independent report from the prosecutor’s office were made and were denied for confidential reasons, Divens was told. He said Melerine was not charged, nor is a suspect, yet the release of the prosecutor office’s report is denied to be released. He also noted “even rape and murder reports are considered to be public record.”
Divens acknowledged — although City Council is not directly involved with the affairs of the police department — it is made aware of other issues, such a parking violations, and therefore requested for council members to consider a “transparency issue“ within SPD.
“Police officers are required to make split-second decisions in dangerous and unpredictable circumstances. This council and community owe it to their officers to be transparent and above when an officer’s actions are called into question. A number of your police officers are aware that this report is being covered up, but are not permitted to speak to you about it. I am respectfully asking city council to read and release the report that exonerates Warren Melerine for the action he took that night in service to his city,” Divens said. “My understanding is if the report is not available within a week or two, one of the requesting parties will initiate legal action to force the release. I only ask that you carefully consider and do the right thing.”
After speaking, Divens left copies of his statement for each council member to review.
In response to Divens’ statement to council Monday evening, Balling told the Sidney Daily News, “Mr. Divens is a former employee of the city of Sidney that presented information at council last night. There were several items that I would consider incorrect in what he presented. The city has followed all employment laws and contractual guidelines during the termination of Sgt. Melerine and Sgt. Divens. All public records laws have also been reviewed and followed as required by law.”
He noted Divens was terminated on May 17, 2019, for policy and other violations. Divens has appealed his termination and has an arbitration hearing on Sept. 26, 2019.
In other business Monday evening, Fire Chief Brad Jones introduced three of the city’s four new firefighters who started on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019 with the Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services to Sidney City Council. Firefighters Jared Pleiman, Ken Battiston, Joshua Waugh were present Monday evening. Firefighter Ross Kohler was absent due to a death in the family, Jones said.
Pleiman is a graduate of Coldwater High School, received his level I and level II from the Ohio Fire Academy and his EMT-basic from the Apollo Career Center, Jones said. He will begin his paramedic certification in the spring of 2020. He came to Sidney from the city of Clayton Fire Department as well as the city of Trotwood Fire Department. Pleiman currently resides in Coldwater.
Jones told council Battiston is a graduate of Milton Union High School and has a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University. He received his level I and level II firefighting certificates from Sinclair Community College and his EMT-basic from Greenville EMS. He will begin his paramedic certification in the spring of 2020. Battiston came to Sidney from Milton Union High School where he was the head strength and conditioning coach. He currently resides in Troy with his wife Danielle and their young daughter.
Waugh is a graduate of Lehman High and received his level I and level II firefighting certificates, paramedic certificate as well as fire safety inspector from Sinclair Community College. He also attended Eastern Kentucky University and completed classes in the area of fire protection administration. Jones said Waugh came to Sidney as a firefighter/paramedic from Dayton Fire Department. He currently resides in Fort Loramie with his wife Brittany and their four children.
Jones said Kohler is a graduate of Botkins High School, received his level I firefighting certificate from Clark State, his level II from Sinclair Community College, and EMT-B from the Mercer County EMS Training Academy. He will begin his paramedic certification in the spring of 2020. Kohler comes to Sidney as a firefighter/EMT from the Wapakoneta Fire Department, and was previously employed at the Harrison Township Fire Department. Kohler currently resides in Botkins.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.