Allegations against SPD
SIDNEY — The 15 allegations against the Sidney Police Department and Chief Will Balling and the findings for each one includes:
Allegation 1: Failure to interview witnesses to bean-bag deployment: Former Sgt. Warren Melerine alleged Capt. William Shoemaker and Balling acted improperly by failing to ensure relevant witnesses to his less-lethal deployment of May 23, 2017, were interviewed. Melerine said three officers and two dispatchers should have been interviewed. Melerine said he was not interviewed during the investigation.
Conclusion: Investigators concluded there was sufficient evidence to conclude on May 23, 2017, Melerine violated the Sidney PD use of force policy regarding proper incident documentation following a use of force incident. Melerine told his officers they could wait until the following day to complete a witness statement, and the officers completed their shift and went home without completing their witness statements.
Investigators reviewed all the witnesses who Shoemaker and Balling interviewed about the incident. Investigators concluded that Melerine’s allegation that Shoemaker and Balling improperly failing to interview witnesses was unfounded. The investigation proved the alleged act didn’t occur.
Allegation 2: Memo from Prosecutor Tim Sell to Chief Will Balling was withheld.
Melerine alleged a memo from Sell to Balling was not released in time for his arbitration hearing on Jan. 11, 2018. Melerine said during arbitration process, he and his Fraternal Order of Police union representative asked for all documents related to his termination. Melerine said Balling’s failure to release the document was a violation of their request for information.
Conclusion: On June 21, 2017, Balling sent a memo to Sell requesting a criminal review of the less-lethal deployment and asked if the case should be presented to the grand jury. On Jan. 8, 2018, Sell sent his conclusion to Balling in a memo. His conclusion was the case wouldn’t be presented to the grand jury. Sell found administrative action was the appropriate disposition of the case. Balling’s decision to not release the memo fell under the Confidential Law Enforcement Investigatory Records exception.
Investigators concluded there was sufficient evidence to conclude Balling did not release the memo from Sell. The investigators concluded Balling’s action was properer and in compliance with the CLEIR exception. Balling is exonerated of any allegations of wrongdoing.
Allegation 3: Officer misuse of Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway. Melerine alleged Shoemaker and Balling failed to properly investigate an incident involving an OHLEG photo being used for target practice by two Sidney PD SWAT team members in 2014.
Conclusion: Balling and Shoemaker confirmed the photo incident occurred but not as presented by Melerine. The two officers allegedly used a photo from a case file, and they didn’t log into the OHLEG system for purposes of printing out the picture. The incident, while technically was a violation, should be handled administratively within the department and charges shouldn’t be filed. The incident did not rise to prosecutal level and was not a fifth-degree felony. Both Balling and Shoemaker were exonerated of the allegation.
Allegation 4: Shredding of counterfeit currency.
Melerine alleged an officer shredded counterfeit United States currency instead of tagging it into evidence and completing a noncriminal report. Melerine alleged Balling and Shoemaker did nothing about the incident.
Conclusion: There is sufficient evidence that the officer shredded the money, which was obtained during a traffic stop. The currency was undersized and comparable to Monopoly money.
Although the the shredding of the currency was technically a violation of the SPD evidence room policy, the officer’s actions were consistent with departmental procedures with the destruction of property that had no evidentiary value. Balling, Shoemaker and the officer were exonerated of the allegation.
Allegation 5: Failure to discipline officer for misuse of city time. Melerine alleged an officer was not disciplined properly despite Balling and Shoemaker being aware he used city time to perform duties for his second job.
Conclusion: Melerine never filed a formal complaint with his immediate supervisor, Shoemaker, or Balling. Both Balling and Shoemaker said they talked with the officer, and if a compliant was filed, they could revoke his off-duty employment approval. Investigators concluded there was no credible evidence to support Melerine’s allegation. They declared the allegation was unfounded.
Allegation 6. Unconstitutional traffic stops. Melerine alleged SPD officers regularly made illegal and unconstitutional traffic stops. He alleged officers would detain a driver until the department’s K-9 officer was available for a search of the vehicle.
Conclusion: During interviews with Melerine and the officers who allegedly were involved, no one could provide specific examples of a driver being illegally stopped. Investigators found no credible evidence to conclude there was a pattern of illegal and unconstitutional traffic stops. The allegation is unfounded.
Allegation 7: Improper implementation of the Elite Eight Award. Melerine alleged a departmental award created by Shoemaker was implemented in such as way as to purposely exclude an officer because he was “outspoken” and Shoemaker “did not like him.” Seven officers qualified for the award in 2014.
Conclusion: After reviewing the criteria and selection process for the award, which was changed in 2015, investigators found the allegation to be unfounded. The investigation provided the alleged act didn’t occur.
Allegations 8, 9 and 10: Improper implementation of Officer of the Year award. Melerine alleged a specific officer should have won the award because he had been nominated four or five times by his coworkers, Balling “bullied” into the selection process, and the officer who did receive the award in 2015 shouldn’t have received it.
Conclusion: After a review of the Officer of the Year Award nominations and selection process, there is no credible evidence to conclude the officer was intentionally or maliciously excluded from winning the award, that Balling “bullied in on the award selection process” or that the officer who did win the award was not qualified to win it. The allegations are unfounded.
Allegations 11 and 12: Parking citation order. Melerine alleged Balling directed officers to increase the number of parking citations issued in the downtown area of Sidney.
Conclusion: There is sufficient evidence to conclude Balling directed officers to enforce the city’s parking ordinance in downtown Sidney. The directive was legal and in compliance with the city’s ordinance. Investigators concluded Balling is exonerated from any allegation of wrongdoing concerning the allegation.
Allegation 13: Conveyance report not given to officers. Melerine alleged he authored an official compliment on an employee actions conveyance form, and it was never placed in the personnel files of four officers and two dispatchers.
Conclusion: Melerine had a copy of the form, which had his signature on the front page, but the front page did not contain any routing signatures, dates or times. The investigator was unable to verify Melerine actually routed the form up the chain of command. The investigator determined there was no evidence to support the allegation that Balling intentionally failed to place the official compliment in the personnel files of the officers and dispatchers. The allegation is unfounded. It is unknown if the official compliment form was routed improperly, simply misplaced or never routed.
Recommendation: The investigator recommends the official compliment form be reviewed and, if warranted, placed in the personnel files of the appropriate employees.
Allegation 14: Melerine alleged he was disciplined improperly for meal plan and uniform spending discrepancies.
Conclusion: There is sufficient evidence that Melerine was issued an employee counseling record for meal plan and uniform spending discrepancies. The meal spending is covered in the city’s travel regulations and reimbursement executive order. Melerine chose not to follow the executive order regarding meal spending. He was counseled to “pay closer attention to the details when spending city funds. If you go over your budgeted amount, submit the overage with your travel expense form.”
The requirements for clothing purchases are documented in the police department’s collective bargaining agreement for sergeants. All items purchased must meet the prior approval of the police chief, police captain or designated officer in charge. Melerine chose not to follow the collective bargaining agreement or his captain’s email regarding the purchase. Melerine admitted he went outside the normal purchase process to save money on boots.
After a review of the incidents, the investigator concluded there is no credible evidence to support Melerine’s allegation of unequal distribution of discipline in these situations. Melerine’s allegation that Shoemaker acted improperly by issuing him an employee counseling report concerning spending discrepancies is unfounded.
Allegation 15: Vehicle pursuit. Melerine alleged another officer violated several department policies while involved in a vehicle pursuit. Balling admitted he should have stopped the pursuit earlier but made a judgment call based on the report of an officer nearly being struck by the suspect’s vehicle.
Conclusion: There is no credible evidence to support Melerine’s allegations that the pursuit was allowed because of officer was a “protected officer.” The allegations are unfounded.
Recommendations: The investigator found a lack of documentation concerning verbal coaching and counseling related to several past incidents. After emailing Balling concerning the Guardian Tracking system, the investigator recommended the police department continue to track official employee counseling, reprimands and discipline. This will ensure consistency among supervisors and prevent the appearance of an unequal distribution or reprimands or discipline.