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Three officers suspended over dispute

Jessica Cuffman • Oct 28, 2013 at 9:34 AM

An internal investigation stemming from a dispute between a supervisor and a patrolman has led to a three-day suspension for a third officer at Vermilion Police Department.


Last month, administrators began probing the rift between Vermilion police Sgt. Aaron Bolton and Officer Craig Howell.

The long-running feud centered on Howell’s relationship with his own girlfriend and Bolton’s disapproval of the relationship, according to internal police documents the Register obtained through a public records request.

Bolton also accused Howell of profiling women by age and appearance during traffic stops, according to the documents.

After speaking to Howell about the allegations, police supervisors determined they were unfounded.

In a formal complaint dated Sept. 10, Howell said his friction with Bolton started in April. That’s when Howell started dating a woman who was friends with Bolton and Bolton’s wife, according to the complaint. Bolton made it clear he didn’t approve of Howell’s relationship with the woman, the document stated.

Other events transpired in the months that followed, but Howell never made a formal complaint — that is, until Bolton sent an email to the commander of Erie County’s Special Response Team. The email suggested Howell wasn’t suited for the unit.

At that point, Howell sent his supervisors a three-page letter detailing his formal complaints against Bolton.    In short, he accused Bolton of various misdeeds, such as providing Howell’s private address to a resident during a police ride-along, and making false allegations about misconduct. He also accused Bolton of namecalling and defamation, among other things.

Supervisors interviewed Bolton, Howell and a third officer, David Jones, about the allegations.

The bulk of the investigation’s findings have since been sent to Vermilion law director Ken Stumphauzer for review.

Jones was suspended for three days. Police documents show Jones played a part in driving a police ride-along passenger past Howell’s home. The passenger was previously engaged to Howell’s girlfriend.

“While the lion’s share of the blame for that incident rests on another’s shoulders, you still bear your share of the blame for failing to recognize a malicious and inappropriate act and partaking in it,” police Chief Chris Hartung wrote in a disciplinary letter to Jones. “You and you alone answer for your integrity and cannot allow your actions to be guided by those of questionable character.”

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