America Knows How To Handle Bad Cops: Make Them Police Chief!
Excellent news for America's failures, bunglers, clods, and sadsacks! There's always a rewarding career waiting for you in law enforcement, just as long as you don't start piling up a record of fuckuppery until some point after you've gotten your first job as a cop, according to an investigation of crappy sheriffs and police chiefs across our great land by the USA Today network. Records of police misconduct tend to be hard to find, and lots of small-town police departments either don't bother to do exhaustive vetting, or simply can't afford to be choosy. So it turns out that cops who get fired for all sorts of disciplinary problems sometimes end up running their very own cop shops -- and screwing up royally there, too!
The report, based on "misconduct records from hundreds of police departments and state licensing boards in nearly every state" as well as interviews with municipal officials who came to regret their incautious hires, explains:
Misconduct that might disqualify someone from being hired as a rookie cop hasn't stopped officers from taking the top jobs at law enforcement agencies throughout the USA.
Many ended up running small forces in places without the inclination to do basic background checks or without the wherewithal to penetrate the secretive and haphazard systems that can hide police misconduct even from the police.
The reporters identified "32 people who became police chiefs or sheriffs despite a finding of serious misconduct, usually at another department." Eight of the top cops had actually been guilty of a crime, and others had extensive records of misconduct like
domestic violence, improperly withholding evidence, falsifying records or other conduct that could impact the public they swore to serve.
And some, we assume, are good people.
Mind you, the story points out, the journalists only scratched the surface, since "records reporters were able to examine cover a small fraction of U.S. law enforcement agencies."
While we meet all sorts of fine, upstanding sheriffs and police chiefs, the star of the investigation is David Cimperman, the former chief of police for Amsterdam, Ohio, a small town with a population under 500, and not even a stoplight for Cimperman to bother keeping an eye on. He was hired in 2015 by the mayor, Gary Pepperling, who admits he didn't do an extensive check on Cimperman -- the guy's résumé looked good, and after calling Cimperman's references, Pepperling hired him. No, don't be silly, Pepperling didn't call Cimperman's former boss, why would he do that?
If Pepperling had called Michael Goodwin, the police chief of New Philadelphia, Ohio, he'd have gotten an earful about the former officer. Less than a year after Cimperman started working as a cop in New Philadelphia in the 1990s, he got in trouble for leaving "the door of his cruiser open after work, his loaded shotgun still on the seat." A year later, Cimperman was nearly fired for
a 115 mph chase over hilly country roads that ended with his cruiser upside-down in a creek.
Cimperman started the chase because he saw a motorcyclist who hadn't lowered the visor on his helmet, a minor infraction. He continued the pursuit even after a supervisor recommended that he break it off, because he said later he couldn't get close enough to read the motorcycle's license plate.
After about 15 miles, the motorcyclist darted into a park and across a wooden footbridge that was only 3 feet wide, Cimperman speeding close behind in the department's new cruiser. The driver escaped (officers found him later), and Cimperman ended up in the creek. He shot out a window of the cruiser to escape. The mayor fumed that Cimperman should be fired but settled for a 10-day suspension.
"He just seemed to break everything he touched," Goodwin, the city's police chief, says.
Then there was the itty-bitty felony charge that actually did get Cimperman fired in 2001. He pleaded guilty after paying a company to modify some radios to work on police frequencies, so he could make untraceable phone calls, as one does, "though officials never figured out why."
The felony conviction led to Cimperman losing his state license to be a cop, but it was reinstated because the court record was sealed, seeing as how he was a first-time offender. After he was fired, an arbitrator "put him back on the force, saying he deserved to be suspended but not fired." Cimperman managed to hold the job for another two weeks, after which he was fired again for committing perjury at a trial. That too went to arbitration, and another arbitrator put him back on the job. Cimperman kept piling up disciplinary actions, and eventually got in big trouble again when a whole bunch of military surplus equipment went missing. The city let him resign in lieu of prosecuting him.
Three years later, he landed the sweet police chief gig in Amsterdam, although it wasn't exactly cushy; he was the only cop on the force, working part time, at minimum wage. Big surprise: He was grifty as fuck in that job, too, and used his position to put a whole bunch of friends on the town's police roster -- not to actually work as cops, but because he was running a private security outfit, and their being on that list allowed him to charge clients extra for providing "off-duty police officers." Mayor Pepperling's signature somehow ended up copied on 35 of the necessary forms, although he says he only signed five himself.
Oh yes, and after Cimperman was fired, the new chief -- who was presumably vetted before getting hired -- says thousands of dollars of equipment, like riot gear, had gone missing. During his tenure, Cimperman had aggressively sought "donations" of surplus equipment from other departments. (For his one-man plus temps department.)
Cimperman's is just the most extreme, crazily detailed example in the story; there was also a dude who ended up in several top cop jobs in Missouri even though he'd lost his police license in Kansas due to misconduct -- and had also "been the subject of three restraining orders. In one, his then-fiancee said he threatened to shoot her." Or a Georgia sheriff who kept getting reelected after financial scandals, admitting to misusing department resources, and, oops, accidentally shooting a friend during a "training exercise." Go read the whole piece -- those additional stories are detailed in brief "read more" sidebars. No need to shout "Fuck the Police" when they're already plenty fucked all on their own!
So rest easy, small-town America! While big cities may get the most attention for their outrageous policing scandals, little towns have plenty of crooked grifters in high places, too! To celebrate, put on some John Mellencamp and beat yourselves over the head with a baton!
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.