Cleveland Safety and Police Officials have disciplined 12 supervisors involved in last November’s high speed pursuit of two suspects who were ultimately killed in a barrage of gunfire. Ideastream’s Bill Rice reports one of the supervisors was fired, two were demoted, and 9 face suspensions.
Sergeant Michael Donegan was one of 12 supervisors on duty while the chase was unfolding who was found to have violated policies and procedures. Of the twelve, seven faced disciplinary hearings. Donegan was the sole supervisor to be fired. He was engaged in the pursuit of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams early on. Safety Director Martin Flask says Donegan abandoned the chase and abdicated his responsibility as a sector supervisor.
“In my opinion after a thorough review of the facts and circumstances, the officer is being terminated failing his primary mission to ensure that he provided accountability and engagement with the officers under his direct command,” Flask said.
“He disengaged himself from the pursuit, disengaged himself from supervision of the officers under his direct supervision, knowing full well that they were engaged in a high speed pursuit throughout the neighborhoods of Cleveland,” he said.
Captain Ulrich Zouhar was demoted to Lieutenant, and Lieutenant Paul Wilson was demoted to Sergeant. Eight supervisors received suspensions ranging from three to thirty days, and disciplinary action for one is still pending.
The department’s review of supervisors does not involve their roles when more than a dozen officers shot and killed suspects Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. A gun was never found in their possession or in the car they were driving.
Michael Betley is President of the Cleveland Fraternal Order of Police, which represents police supervisors. He says all twelve of those disciplined will file grievances appealing the penalties with the city’s Labor Relations Board.
Betley: “All the members and the FOP itself, including myself feel that the penalties imposed were severe and not for just cause. “
Paul Cristallo is an attorney representing the family of Timothy Russell. He says the family won’t interfere as the investigation continues.
Cristallo: “I’m encouraged that the process is going forward, that discipline is being meted out. We’ll have to see whether or not it was adequate discipline.”
The discipline meted out thus far, and the upcoming hearings for more than 100 patrol officers involved in the incident, pertain only to the high speed chase. Mayor Frank Jackson says the shooting that occurred after the suspects were cornered near an elementary school will be addressed sometime after County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty concludes a criminal investigation.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct a spelling error. The Russell family's attorney is Paul Cristallo, not Paul Cristalla.