A power politician admitted problems do exist with Put-in-Bay’s police force.
He’s even disgusted with the department’s alleged actions — calling questionable arrests made by two officers in a high-profile case inappropriate — and sympathizes with residents and area stakeholders, fearful of uncontrollable and inexperienced cops patrolling the island, after reading their letters addressed to him.
But state Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, stopped short of calling the department dysfunctional dismissed any chance he’d press for personnel changes or criminal charges and passed off any related responsibility he might have on this situation onto others.
He made the comments during a town hall-style meeting Saturday morning inside the Village Hall on Catawba Avenue.
About 30 people, including several area officials, attending the meeting.
Those noticeably absent: Put-in-Bay police Chief Ric Lampela and Mayor Margaret Scarpelli.
Spearheaded by Register reporting, the police department — including Lampela and Scarpelli, who oversee law enforcement operations — has come under fire in recent weeks for potential negligence and other questionable behavior, such as officers:
• Harassing local businesses.
• Making false arrests.
• Falsifying police reports.
• Neglecting, or simply ignoring, to follow up on investigation complaints from at least 15 visitors who suspect they were drugged and became unconscious after someone slipped a foreign substance into their drinks.
During the meeting, Redfern and others tiptoed around addressing these issues, despite residents voicing concerns about them.
Rather, Redfern simply said training could help solve these problems.
After the almost two-hour meeting concluded, the Register asked Redfern specific questions about the controversy:
Q: Are you concerned that Put-in-Bay police, including its operations and personnel, is dysfunctional?
CR: Dysfunctional? No. I don’t think there is any indication that it’s dysfunctional. I think there is every indication that additional training and expertise needs to (happen). I’m sure the sheriff (Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick) and other law enforcement agencies will be able to help.
Q: Have you received any information about police wrongdoing, and do you know whether there are any investigations of the police department underway or ongoing?
CR: I have received several phone calls from several individuals and a handful of elected officials of alleged wronging. I have referred those allegations to Sheriff Levorchick.
Q: At least two island business owners have complained about harassment from the police department. What steps do you recommend those business owners take to have their concerns addressed?
CR: Contact the BCI, contact the FBI and lodge an appropriate complaint.
Q: Video surveillance of arrests made this past September at the Put-in-Bay Resort suggests that the arrests were improper. Have you viewed this video, and can you offer an opinion about what it shows?
CR: I have viewed the video, and I think it was inappropriate. It was over the top. The days allowing law enforcement to enter private property and (having them) arrest you because you want to be viewed on videotape, and you’re arrested because the officer doesn’t want to, I thought those days were in the past. Sadly they are not.
Q: Have any village council members given you any indication as to what they intend to do about problems in the police department that have been suggested by business owners who have been allegedly harassed?
CR: Yes. They said they need to get more training.
Q: And you still don’t think there is a problem here?
CR: I think that there is a need for additional training. Absolutely, without a about.