REGISTER VIEWPOINTS: Justice story keeps changing

In business, people's duties change all the time. Sometimes it's a question of finding where to best place your resou
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

In business, people's duties change all the time.

Sometimes it's a question of finding where to best place your resources, match people's skills to the needed job. Sometimes it's disciplinary. The point is, it's the boss' job to make that decision.

So the reassignment of Sandusky police officer James DeSalle, and reassignment of his police dog Justice to narcotics, need not have been a big deal.

But after there was an outcry,, acting Police Chief Charlie Sams had an opportunity to satisfy the reasonable questions with an explanation that made sense and stuck. He didn't.

The story seemed to change each time Sams was asked why dog and man were reassigned.

This is what he said:

July 9: No disciplinary problems with DeSalle. "Sometimes it's a perfect fit to have an officer from the narcotic unit work with the dog," Sams says. There are other reasons, but he won't detail them.

July 13: Sams says, at a city commission meeting, there was "constant complaining" by DeSalle about working weekends, DeSalle had issues with supervisors and problems kenneling the dog at home and when DeSalle went on vacation. This answer, by the way, seemsto satisfy many of those who questioned the move.

July 16: Sams says there's a "preliminary investigation" about two possible "improprieties." We ask for policies and procedures relating to the police dog unit; Sams says none exist.

July 17: Digging for information the police department won't release, we discover there were policies and procedures, put in place by then-chief Kim Nuesse. Sams says he forgot about them, they were never official anyway, and he's redoing the manual and hasn't gotten to the part about police dog policies and procedures. There's a memo with the police union about that; Sams doesn't have a copy but says Law Director Don Icsman might.

Last weekend: We hear about a complaint filed against another officer who forgot to turn off a police cruiser's tape recorder -- which picked up DeSalle's complaints.

Monday: There are technical problems getting the tape to us, Sams says. Icsman says he'll do everything he can to get us the tape by Tuesday.

Tuesday: Sams complains about us going to Icsman, says the comments in the tape had nothing to do with DeSalle's reassignment, says the delay in getting us the tape was because he wanted to be certain he was giving us the right tape, but there is, in effect, only one tape. We receive a copy of the tape. So far, the tape is the only documented complaint we have found.

The point is one we keep making about city hall and the police department: The story keeps changing, to whatever's most convenient at the time for those we ask for explanation.

Is the reassignment of DeSalle and Justice, despite what some police dog experts and others say about the bond forged between man and dog who train together, the right thing to do? We don't know. And because of the constantly changing story -- one of many such examples at the police department and at city hall -- we find ourselves in the same position we've been in many times before, wondering if the taxpayers and residents of Sandusky will ever have the final answer, one we all can trust.