Former UCPD Chief exploring legal “options” after internal inves - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

FOX19 NOW INVESTIGATES

Former UCPD Chief exploring legal “options” after internal investigation

Jason Goodrich (FOX19 NOW) Jason Goodrich (FOX19 NOW)
Major Timothy Thornton (Linkedin) Major Timothy Thornton (Linkedin)
Ex-officer Ray Tensing at a court appearance. (FOX19 NOW) Ex-officer Ray Tensing at a court appearance. (FOX19 NOW)
CINCINNATI (FOX19) -

Former University of Cincinnati Police Chief Jason Goodrich is looking at whether he has any grounds to take legal action against the university and/or Exiger, its hired investigative team.

Exiger finished a “personnel review” into Goodrich and UCPD Major Tim Thornton in February, claiming the men were not completely honest with how the department was conducting traffic enforcement in and around campus. Both men resigned a few days before Exiger finished the investigation on Feb. 29.

We requested interviews with Goodrich and Thornton last week after obtaining the internal report.

In an emailed statement to FOX19 NOW Monday, Goodrich wrote: 

“I strongly dispute the allegations made against me in this draft report. I did not lie, and my experiences with the investigation leads me to believe it was a biased investigation. I am reserving further comment while consulting with legal counsel to have a better understanding of all my options. I look forward to providing a detailed response in the future.

The report claims Goodrich and Thornton were subject to "an immediate, confidential investigation" regarding their knowledge of what led to a 400 percent increase in traffic stops after Goodrich’s arrival.

UC hired a firm named Exiger, a Toronto-based risk management firm, to conduct a "top-to-bottom" review of the UC police force and its policing practices. A portion of the Exiger report was finished Feb. 29. The full investigative report is due out in June.

Goodrich, the report shows, was investigated by the outside review team on the belief that he intentionally "misled the Exiger team and UC senior administrators." The investigation happened after finding out the former chief claimed to have a lack of knowledge regarding: " the extent of, and motivation for, the dramatic increase in traffic stops by UCPD officers after the Chief took over the Department in November 2014," the report detailed.

Following interviews with the internal investigators, Goodrich's second-in-charge, Major Timothy Thornton, "denying knowledge regarding the extent of, and motivation for, the sharp rise in traffic stops during the Chief's tenure," the report states.

In the days following the July 2015 shooting death of Sam DuBose by a UC cop, a FOX19 NOW investigation delved into why the UC Police Department spent so much time running traffic and ticketing drivers in and around campus. Our findings showed drastic increases in the traffic patrol numbers there, especially off-campus.

The evidence showed an increase in traffic stops and traffic ticketing rose 400 percent after Goodrich took over, according to the internal investigation.

"In our initial interview, Chief Goodrich indicated that he was unaware of both the extent of, and motivation for, this substantial upsurge in stops," the Exiger report stated.

CHIEF, SECOND-IN-COMMAND 'UNTRUTHFUL'

"Based on our findings, it is the Exiger team’s view that Chief Goodrich and Major Thornton were untruthful with both Exiger and the UC Administration, misrepresenting their knowledge as to significant increased use of off-campus traffic stops by UCPD officers during the Chief’s tenure."

That line is taken from the UC internal report. The report also shows Goodrich's policing philosophy "precipitated the spike in traffic stops leading up to the shooting death of Samuel DuBose."

The report states Goodrich "embraced the aggressive use of such traffic stops," and pushed that philosophy onto his officers.

By the end of the report, the internal investigators found that Goodrich and Thornton lost "the confidence and support from many of their UCPD officers" because of their "misrepresentations" and other factors uncovered during the university's investigation of its police force.

Goodrich, the report shows, attempted to explain the problems uncovered by the university investigators as "a series of miscommunications" between the chief, university leaders and the Exiger review team. "We do not view this claim as either plausible or credible," Exiger wrote in the report.

Exiger interviewed four of the university’s top administrators to figure out whether Goodrich was telling the truth about not knowing his officers were making traffic stops off campus. Those administrators were:

-UC President Santa Ono

-UC Vice President for Safety and Reform Dr. Robin Engel

-UC Director of Public Safety Jim Whalen

-Sr. Vice President for Administration and Finance Bob Ambach

In each case, the internal investigation team found that Goodrich had denied knowing the details of his police force’s ticketing and patrol practices. Specifically, in a meeting with President Ono following the shooting in July 2015, Goodrich was quoted as telling Ono, “he had been unaware that his officers were conducting off-campus traffic stops,” the report shows.

The Exiger team found out that Major Timothy Thornton has close ties to Goodrich, long before the men came to lead the UCPD. Thornton told investigators that he worked as a lieutenant under Goodrich at the Lamar University Police Department in Beaumont, Texas before being hired at US as Goodrich’s second-in-charge.

Thornton, investigators wrote, “volunteered that he was extremely loyal to Chief Goodrich.”

Thornton denied the assertion that Goodrich has a traffic enforcement priority in enforcement, instead described Goodrich’s philosophy as “balanced.” Thornton explained that Goodrich balanced traffic enforcement with traditional policing and added that traffic was “not essential,” the report shows.

Both Goodrich and Thornton resigned from the UCPD on Feb. 26, the day after Exiger investigators interviewed Goodrich for a second time. 

Last week Thornton, in a Facebook message, declined an interview with FOX19 regarding the internal investigation writing, "I'm not sure today's the day, but I may in the near future."

GOODRICH'S POLICING IMPACT ON THE PUBLIC

On Feb. 24, the internal investigation team arrived at the University of Cincinnati to conduct a "Personnel Review" of members of the UCPD and the university's administration. The investigators interviewed 14 university officials, including UC President Santa Ono, the report shows.

On Feb. 24, the Exiger team interviewed Major Thornton. The next day the team conducted an interview with Chief Jason Goodrich. That was the second interview with Goodrich; the first was Feb. 16.

The internal review team investigated UCPD's patrol numbers from before and after the university hired Goodrich in November 2014. The investigators wanted to figure out where Goodrich had taken the department during his leadership--and under the leadership of UC administrators.

Traffic stops:

The report shows UCPD averaged 87 traffic stops each month before Goodrich took over. In seven months after Goodrich took over, UCPD averaged 271 traffic stops each month. A 211 percent increase.

Traffic ticketing:

The report shows tickets averaged 87 each month in the months before Goodrich took over and climbed to 256 a month, a 200 percent increase.

Two months prior DuBose shooting death:

Stops and citations reached “an all-time high,” the report shows when stops climbed to an average of 412 stops each of those two months with an average of 392.5 tickets for May and June of 2015.

Presented with the traffic stop statistics, Goodrich told the internal investigators “he did not know that his own officers were performing traffic stops off campus,” the report showed.

Goodrich explained his ignorance of his own officers’ conduct by telling the investigators that UCPD did not require officers to issue reports at the end of a shift, which caused what Goodrich described as a “blind spot” in his management of his department.

The university administration also did not require Goodrich to compile those statistics so the university leadership could keep a watch on the conduct of its police force.

GOODRICH, THORNTON BLAME ‘OUTLIER’ OFFICERS FOR TRAFFIC NUMBERS

Both Goodrich and Thornton denied assertions that traffic enforcement was a priority inside their leadership of the UCPD, despite the numbers showing 400 percent increases in some traffic enforcement categories.

Thornton, the report shows, “attributed the dramatic rise in traffic stops to a clique of four or five aggressive “outlier” officers.” Thornton included Ray Tensing, the man who shot and killed Sam DuBose, in that group.

Thornton admitted he did receive officer “activity reports,” which showed the number of traffic stops each UCPD cop conducted. But, Thornton did not “examine the relevant data,” the report states.

Thornton referred to his and the chief’s lack of attention to the numbers as a “blind spot,” which the investigators noted was a “remarkably similar” description the chief used to dismiss his ignorance of his own department’s policing statistics.

CHIEF ‘ACTIVELY ENCOURAGED’ UCPD OFFICERS TO MAKE STOPS

The internal investigators noted in the report they did not believe Chief Goodrich or Major Thornton’s claims of not issuing a directive to UCPD officers to conduct aggressive traffic enforcement as a part of the university’s daily policing practices.

“No question exists that Chief Goodrich embraced the use of traffic stops as a key part of his proactive policing philosophy, that he actively encouraged his officers to make more stops, and that both he and the Major knew about,” them, the report states.

Investigators reached that conclusion following interviews with 14 university officials, internal university documents and email messages from the UC servers.

For example, Exiger points to a March 2015 email sent to Goodrich and Thornton by an unidentified UCPD officer. In it, the officer details his traffic enforcement activity, including details of the stop and charges stemming from the stop. That officer reported 46 charges for the month of March – four months before the DuBose killing – with 40 labeled “TRAFFIC TICKET,” the report shows.

In response to the email, Goodrich responded in an email to the officer, “Not bad, a little light for over a month but progress. Thanks for sharing.”

Exiger investigators questioned Goodrich about the email in an interview in February. Goodrich, the report shows, described his response to the officer as a “misimpression.” Goodrich explained to the investigators that he was commending the officer for his work in detailing his policing work to his bosses, not commending him for an increase in traffic enforcement.

The report also points to daily UCPD Command Staff Meetings where Goodrich and Thornton meet with senior department officials. Multiple officers told investigators they remembered a meeting a few months before where a dispatcher “expressed concern” over the spike in UCPD traffic enforcement.

That dispatcher showed Goodrich and Thornton at that meeting statistics that showed UCPD officers made “more stops in one month that during the entire previous year,” the report shows.

The report quotes Goodrich and Thornton’s responses to the statistics presented during that meeting as “keep up the good work,” “it was a good start,” and that UC officers “should be ‘doing even more.’”

Investigators learned from interviews with UCPD officers that Thornton later ordered a meeting with the dispatcher to discuss what he viewed as a “dissention in the Command Staff, the report shows.

Thornton later banned the dispatcher from future command staff meetings, Exiger investigators reported.

MORE EVIDENCE GOODRICH KNEW HIS OFFICERS’ CONDUCT

As further evidence to prove Goodrich knew the traffic enforcement conduct of his officers, Exiger investigators uncovered daily briefing reports sent to Goodrich, which detailed statistics, including traffic enforcement numbers.

UCPD also handed out “beat maps,” which detailed patrol zones for his officers that included off-campus patrolling. The beats were to “deter criminals from entering” campus and the areas around it, the report shows.

Several people Exiger interviewed showed evidence Goodrich ordered two new motorcycles for UCPD to conduct traffic enforcement and to form a new “Traffic Safety Unit.” Following the July 2015 DuBose shooting and the public scrutiny following it, UC scrapped the traffic unit plan.

Multiple officers told Exiger investigators about a perception inside the department following the DuBose shooting that Goodrich “was attempting to disclaim ownership of the aggressive traffic stop culture that the Chief has personally nurtured,” the report stated. 

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