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Officer suspended for sleeping on job

Courtney Astolfi • Oct 19, 2013 at 9:20 AM

Officer Robert Gardin will be suspended for 10 days — a total of 80 hours — without pay, according to police documents.

On the morning of Oct. 1, Gardin’s police cruiser idled in front of the Cheap Tobacco store on West Perkins Avenue for almost two hours. Earlier in the shift, Gardin’s cruiser idled in the Maag’s Automotive and Machine lot on Columbus Avenue for a little more than an hour, documents stated.

Administrators conducted an internal investigation but were unable to determine if any wrongdoing took place while Gardin was on Columbus Avenue. Testimony from fellow officers about the Perkins Avenue incident, however, was enough to warrant his suspension, according to police documents.

Footage from Gardin’s cruiser camera showed him pulling into the Cheap Tobacco lot at 3:34 a.m., then shutting off his headlights just seconds later, the documents stated.

About an hour later, Officer Kristofer Parsons pulled into the lot, but was unable to bring his cruiser alongside Gardin’s because a pole was in the way, documents stated. After less than a minute — when Gardin didn’t respond to his presence— Parsons left the lot.

Parsons continued with his duties, but when he noticed Gardin’s car still hadn’t moved at 5:20 a.m., he asked Sgt. Dawn Allen to check on him, according to the documents.

When Allen pulled up alongside the passenger side of Gardin’s vehicle, she saw his head hanging and yelled his name a few times. When Gardin awoke, Allen said something along the lines of, “Seriously, dude?” before driving away, documents stated.

The cruiser camera showed Gardin leaving the lot about nine minutes later.

When officers arrived back at the police station that morning, Gardin didn’t offer an explanation. A few days later he acknowledged the mishap, according to police documents.

During an Oct. 13 interview about the incident, Gardin told police commanders he had apparently “dozed” off in his cruiser that morning. Gardin initially estimated he was in the lot for about 30 to 60 minutes, but administrators then confronted him with documentation showing his cruiser was idle for almost two hours.

As for the 70-minute stretch in which he was parked off of Columbus Avenue? Gardin “said he believed he may have been eating lunch,” the documents stated.

Administrators concluded he violated two general rules of conduct: sleeping on duty and dereliction of duty.

Police Chief John Orzech said Gardin’s suspension will likely span different pay cycles, when the department is able to arrange the missing days on their schedule.

Orzech boiled his concerns down to three issues:

• Personal safety concerns for the officer.

• The public’s perception of an officer sleeping on the job.

• Safety concerns for other officers who may need assistance at any time.

“We’re supposed to be protecting and serving the community,” Orzech said. “Anything that sheds negative light on our agency by not doing that is a concern to us.

“Officer Gardin is fully aware he made an error and he owned up to it,” Orzech said. “He is sincerely apologetic for his actions, because it doesn’t bode well for him, our department or the city.”

Gardin has been a Sandusky police officer for almost 14 years. Orzech said this has been his first serious disciplinary infraction.

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