WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio police chief accused by his two captains of a pattern of racism, sexism and other misconduct should take steps to be “more appropriate and professional” — but his actions don’t warrant formal discipline, an attorney hired by his township determined Tuesday.
The outside review of West Chester Township Police Chief Joel Herzog included admissions by Herzog that he called Middle Easterners “terrorists,” Indians “dots” and referred to a Latino officer as “brown Mike.”
Attorney David Duckett’s review also confirmed allegations lodged by the officers and their attorney that Herzog called Black people who interacted with police “Number 2s,” FOX19 reported, and “at times commented on the attractiveness of women to subordinates.”
In his 54-page review, Duckett said he advised Herzog against using such “lingo,” but he stopped short of urging a reprimand even while noting such language violated both township policy and anti-discrimination law.
“(Herzog) must particularly avoid any comment, including joking ones, based on a person’s race, sex, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity - that is the law and West Chester Township policy,” the report said.
Duckett urged township trustees to place Herzog under a “performance improvement plan” that makes clear such language is inappropriate in both public and private. He said he would have recommended action against one of the two captains who brought the complaints for fabricating an account of a relative of Herzog’s wearing blackface at a party, had the officer not quit.
That officer, Jamie Hensley, resigned his position June 23. The other captain, Joe Gutman, remains on duty. A third officer, Charles Hawkins, filed a complaint about the chief with the township last week and a fourth complaint was lodged just ahead of the report’s release.
Elizabeth Tuck, the officers’ attorney, accused township officials of “weaponizing” the attorney’s review against her clients while ignoring much of the content of their interviews. The long-running dispute involved numerous other issues beyond Herzog’s comments about ethic and religious minorities and women.
“Referring to a Latino officer as ‘Brown Mike’ is not just a ‘joking reference,’ because referring to an officer by his race instead of his name is not funny,” Tuck said in a statement.
She said the captains “made a gut-wrenching decision to jeopardize their careers and expose racism, sexism, retaliation, and other wrongdoing at the (department’s) highest level” by bringing their concerns to the township after multiple attempts to try to address their concerns internally.
“Rather than address or report the misconduct to the Ohio Attorney General or another independent body, the Township engaged a hired gun at taxpayer expense to defend itself and Chief of Police Joel Herzog against the Captains’ very real claims of unlawful conduct,” she said.
Besides placing Herzog’s performance on watch, Duckett recommended the township rehire a psychologist to conduct team-building exercises inside a department with what he called a “dysfunctional and toxic workplace dynamic.”