Ohio State Patrol commanders in Columbus must be re-thinking their decision to return an Ohio State Patrol trooper to full service after Sandusky County prosecutor TomStierwalt declined to pursue charges against him in an alleged sexual encounter with a child.
Trooper Ricky Vitte Jr. is accused of masturbating with a pre-teen boy. Stierwalt said his main reason for not seeking charges was that he might no be able to get a conviction because Vitte could successfully argue an affirmative defense at trial that he was teaching the boy to masturbate.
We still don't understand that, and Stierwalt has refused to clarify his reasons or offer any responses to questions that have been raised about his decision.
The Patrol, however, immediately returned his weapon to Vitte and reinstated him to full service as a trooper after Stierwalt opted against pursuing charges. Patrol commanders did the same thing in 2003 when Vitte was accused of beating a 5-year-old child and the child's mother.
Vitte's attorney told the Register Vitte has been falsely accused. The Patrol's decision to restore him to full active duty appears to have been made strictly on the basis that no charges were filed.
The Patrol should re-think that practice. A police officer should be held to a higher standard and Patrol commanders should determine whether a person is fit to be a police officer by his actions and behavior, not his criminal conviction record.
If Vitte has been falsely accused then he deserves to be cleared of the allegations. The Patrol should have done that before returning him to full, active duty with the state Highway Patrol.