Chief can’t fire officer he claims is “unfit to serve" - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

FOX19 NOW Investigates

Chief can’t fire officer he claims is “unfit to serve"

MANCHESTER, OH (FOX19) -

“Personal friends, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends; himself.”

Those are just some of the people Manchester Police Chief Jeff Bowling said his officer, Joshua Hayes, illegally ran through the Ohio Law Enforcement Automated Data System.

The system, commonly known as LEADS, is confidential and managed by Highway Patrol Superintendent Colonel Paul Pride’s office. The Ohio Attorney General's Office investigates allegations of misconduct by Ohio peace officers’ use of the system. The system contains personal information on people collected by law enforcement agencies.

The personal information includes home addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers and criminal records.

Hayes, the chief told FOX19 NOW investigative reporter Jody Barr, performed at least 50 searches on himself and for personal reasons. Bowling said he discovered the searches during a required system audit last spring.

“You cannot access that (LEADS) for anything other than law enforcement use,” Bowling said. 

Hayes is currently still employed by the Manchester Police Department, working full time as the school resource officer at Manchester’s high and elementary schools.

Why would an officer need to do this, one might ask? The chief told FOX19 NOW, he’s got a “pretty good idea” why this happened in this case.

A SEALED PAST

“My speculation is he was making sure there was no protection order on him—against—from an ex-spouse or that he was checking to see if there was anything on his record that should not show up,” Bowling said.

That “anything,” the chief believes, was a 2011 felony arrest out of Kentucky.

Officer Hayes filled out the job application in Manchester on August 21, 2013. Bowling hired Hayes on Oct. 18, 2013 after conducting a lengthy criminal background check through state and the federal database. It did not contain any criminal history data, Bowling said. Neither did Hayes’ application.

Manchester Police Department’s applications require applicants to disclose “any criminal conviction or any expungement.” The application also asks applicants to “explain” whether they’ve “ever been convicted of any crime other than traffic violations?”

Chief Bowling said Hayes’ application did not disclose any criminal charges or expungements.

(BELOW: The complete internal investigation file on Manchester Police Officer Joshua Hayes

Sometime around July 2016, Manchester Police Chief Jeff Bowling got a text. In it, someone sent Bowling an online news article out of Ashland, KY detailing a felony arrest of Joshua Hayes. The arrest, the article shows, happened July 15, 2011.

“One of my final questions to all applicants is: is there anything that I should know about? And, he said no, there’s nothing,” Bowling recalled of Hayes’ answer during the job interview.

Hayes did not disclose any arrests on his job application, the chief said. That’s when Chief Bowling opened an internal affairs investigation into Hayes’ Ashland, KY arrest.

“I immediately went to the mayor and showed the mayor and said, we’ve got a problem,” Bowling said.

We obtained the chief’s investigative report from Hayes’ personnel file, which we’d asked for under the Ohio Public Records Act. Bowling turned that file over to us within a few days of sending the request to him.

The internal affairs report shows Ashland Police Department’s Street Crimes Task Force agents arrested Hayes on the 13th Street bridge after agents saw Hayes as they were “watching a house on Hilton Avenue and already had 2-3 arrests out of it, a lot of prostitution and drugs,” a statement the report shows was made by task force Detective Eric Taylor.

“Detective Taylor stated that he observed a vehicle pull up, go inside, after 2 minutes drove off, indicative of a drug transaction,” the report shows.

The unit dispatched a patrol car to stop Hayes, the report shows.

Hayes told the officer he was “on a drug investigation,” and “displayed a Coal Grove Police Badge and Identification,” the report states.

Hayes, the detective said, told officers he was conducting an investigation but later “recanted” after officers reported Hayes was “found to be purchasing street level Oxycotin,” the internal affairs report shows.

The detective told Manchester agents that he called Coal Grove Police Chief Eric Spurlock during the stop to find out if Hayes was telling the truth about working a drug investigation for Spurlock’s department.

Spurlock, the report shows, told agents Hayes was not working for Coal Grove and Ashland Police later arrested Hayes on charges of police impersonation, illegally carrying a firearm and drug possession.

We spoke with Chief Spurlock at his office on Feb. 7 and Spurlock confirmed the statements made in the Manchester PD internal report. Spurlock also confirmed he’d fired Hayes about a month before Ashland Police arrested him and that Hayes would not turn in his identification after Spurlock said he’d asked for it multiple times.

“I told them to take that ID from him,” Spurlock told FOX19 NOW, “I’d been trying to get it ever since he left here.”

Chief Spurlock fired Hayes for “sleeping on duty,” the internal investigation shows. Hayes had six “written reprimands” in his Coal Grove file, the internal shows.

On June 4, 2011, Hayes did not turn in a $200 cash bond from “a subject” and that Chief Spurlock turned the case over to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department to be investigated, the internal affairs investigation shows.  The case was eventually closed and ruled “unfounded,” the report shows.

Investigators were never able to find the money, Chief Spurlock told FOX19 NOW, and never “found enough evidence” to bring charges in the case.

Spurlock said Hayes had filled out multiple job applications with his department since he was fired in 2011, but Spurlock said Hayes would never work for his department again because of the “incident/arrest” in Ashland, KY.

The charges were later dropped and reduced to a misdemeanor “disorderly conduct” charge, the report shows. Hayes later pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and agreed to a “mandated 18 month alternative treatment program in lieu of serving jail time” and “admitted drug problem,” the internal affairs report shows.  

A search of the Kentucky Courts online court records does not show any cases on Joshua Hayes out of Boyd County, despite multiple officers in two separate agencies and media accounts detailing the 2011 felony charge.

The reason: Hayes’ conviction was later expunged, meaning all documents and records related to the arrest and conviction were destroyed and sealed. Manchester obtained the information related to the case from interviews with the officers involved in the case, the internal report shows.

The internal affairs investigation also showed two other arrests: a Jan. 15, 2006 underage DUI case out of the Morehead Police Department and a July 11, 2013 DUI charge out of Rawlin County. The report does not show the dispositions of those two cases.

Neither of those cases, Chief Bowling said, were disclosed on Hayes’ Manchester Police Department application.

“HE’S UNFIT TO SERVE”

It’s no secret: Manchester Police Chief Jeff Bowling wants Officer Joshua Hayes fired. In fact, Bowling fired Hayes following the July 2016 internal affairs investigation. But, Hayes is still carrying a gun and badge and driving a Manchester PD cruiser today.  

Village of Manchester records show Mayor Robert Hilderbrand agreed with Chief Bowling’s decision to fire Hayes last summer. On July 19, 2016—just eight days after Bowling closed his internal investigation—Hilderbrand signed a “Judgment of charges” against Hayes.

Hilderbrand, the document shows, marked “sustain” to the chief’s charges that Hayes lied on his application to join the village’s police force by not disclosing the 2011 charges out of Kentucky.

(BELOW: On July 19, 2016 Manchester Mayor Robert Hilderbrand sustained multiple charges from the Chief's internal investigation. The village council later voted to reinstate Hayes.)

Hilderbrand’s recommendation marked on the form was: “REMOVAL FROM THE MANCHESTER POLICE DEPARTMENT.”

Despite the recommendation from the chief and mayor, the village council voted on August 15, 2016 to reinstate Hayes, an August 2016 village agenda shows.

“It was an illegal vote, an illegal act all done in executive session,” Bowling told FOX19 NOW. Bowling said he will not fully reinstate Hayes on his end, despite the “illegal and unethical” vote of council.

Since late June 2016, Hayes has not been allowed access to the department’s LEADS system, the department’s police report filing system or the department’s evidence room, Bowling said.

“It’s all about doing what’s right. I want to do what’s legal and I tried to do for the betterment of the Village of Manchester,” Bowling said.

We attempted to interview Mayor Robert Hilderbrand for this report, but messages left for him with the village’s clerk-treasurer were not returned.

“THAT’LL ALL BE DISCLOSED IN COURT”

We tried multiple times to have Joshua Hayes schedule an interview with FOX19 NOW to discuss the allegations, the felony arrest in Kentucky and the open investigation into allegations of misconduct related to the state’s confidential law enforcement database.

In a Feb. 8 phone call, Hayes agreed to an interview but said he would consult with his attorney before scheduling a time to meet. We spoke with Hayes’ attorney by phone the following day and were told Hayes likely would not be making a statement.

We found Hayes outside Manchester High School the next morning and were later able to interview him as he loaded his patrol car outside the Manchester Police Department headquarters building.

“No comment, no comment. I’m aware of the allegations, but right now no comment,” Hayes told FOX19 NOW.

Hayes confirmed he was interviewed by Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents at his attorney’s office in December regarding the LEADS allegations, but would not comment on the investigation.

The Attorney General’s Office confirmed there is an “open” investigation into a Manchester police officer, but AG spokeswoman Jill Del Greco wrote in a Feb. 8 e-mail, the office “generally cannot” confirm the “names of suspects.”

“I can say that BCI’s investigation into alleged criminal misconduct involving an officer with the Manchester Police Department is now under review by special prosecutors with the Attorney General’s Office.  The investigation is still considered open,” Del Greco wrote in the e-mail.

Chief Bowling confirmed to FOX19 NOW, the only officer under investigation is Joshua Hayes.

We asked Hayes whether he agreed with the chief’s assessment that he was “unfit” to serve as a police officer in Manchester. Hayes, who initially gave a “no comment,” did make a statement defending his ability to police the village.

“I know I can do my job effectively and I know that I can get out here and do what I need to do for the people in this community. As far as me and the allegations and whatever he (Bowling) wants to accuse me of, including the reference to my past, that will all be taken care of in a legal manner,” Hayes said in the interview outside the village police department last week.

On Sept. 30, Hayes filed a civil lawsuit against Chief Bowling, Mayor Hilderbrand and the village, accusing the group of: defamation, interference with employment relationship, false light/invasion of privacy, negligent supervision, respondeat superior, retaliation and hostile work environment.

That lawsuit is still pending in the Adams County Court of Common Pleas.

Hayes told FOX19 NOW by phone Feb. 8 the entire scenario was Chief Bowling “attempting to dig up dirt” in “a smear campaign” against him.

The chief said his decision was nothing more than trying to take a gun and badge from someone “unfit” to serve. 

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