Norwood police chief sues city, mayor for 'interfering with day- - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

Norwood police chief sues city, mayor for 'interfering with day-to-day operations'

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Norwood Police Chief William Kramer filed a lawsuit against the city on Monday, alleging Mayor Thomas Williams and other city officials are interfering with daily operations and compromising his authority.

The suit, filed Monday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, requests a temporary restraining order against the mayor, Safety Service Director Joseph Geers, and Norwood Police Captain Keith Belleman.

It also requests the court:

  • issue a declaratory judgement outlining the power of the police chief's position 
  • award Kramer's attorney fees, costs and "any and all further additional relief to which he is entitled by law or equity that the Court believes is just and appropriate."

The chief's lawyer said he had no choice but to try to resolve issues through the courts after several unsuccessful attempts to speak with the mayor and Geers.

Norwood city officials declined comment.

"We are not going to try the case in the news media,” said Assistant Law Director Tim Garry Jr. “I am not expecting a lot of comment from the city on this. We will deal with it in court.”

A former Norwood police sergeant, Phil Cintron, said he isn't surprised at all by the lawsuit. It's well known, he said, that the mayor interferes with daily operations.

"Their entire reputation the entire time I was employed there was essentially you do what we tell you and, if not, we'll strong arm into it one way or another," he said.

“It was known that the mayor didn’t care for a lot of the community initiatives we were involved in. That was known amongst the officers.

"A lot of the newer-style policing that’s come out in the past decade or so, he didn’t recognize that," Cintron said. "His mentality was very old school 'let’s go out and arrest everybody and that’s going to solve the problem.'"

The chief's suit claims the mayor, the safety service director and the police captain conspired to elevate Belleman to his position while he took a sick leave late last month. 

It alleges the mayor and Geers are "exceeding (their) legal authority" and "interfering with the day-to-day operations of the Norwood Police Department."

In order to deal with budget shortfalls amid Norwood's fiscal crisis and several officers leaving the department, the chief had to re-work the duties of some officers, according to the suit.

The dispute among the four men has been brewing all summer.

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In June, Kramer changed Belleman's job responsibilities and moved him to a new office to improve the functioning of the police department, the suit states.

But the chief received a note from the mayor ordering him to immediately restore Belleman back to his former duties and office, according to the suit.

The mayor was a member of the police department for 34 years and is a former captain.

The chief complied, but again moved Belleman to another office to make room for a lieutenant returning from extended injury leave, the suit states.

The mayor once again ordered him to move Belleman back.

Other changes the chief made to the department over the summer amid a city fiscal emergency caused other conflicts, according to the suit.

Staffing is low and the police union pushed for changes as the city's financial problems upset rank-and-file who felt they were not given the proper equipment and funding to do their jobs, according to a Aug. 2 letter drafted by the police union's lawyer obtained by FOX19 NOW.

Conditions are so bad, they have worked in a building without air conditioning for more than a year and another officer received a used ballistic vest that was "obviously too small," attorney Steve Lazarus wrote.

The fleet of police vehicles "is so embarrassing that there were only five running vehicles on the Norwood Day Parade and a wrecked cruiser was used to block a street. The Norwood Police Academy, where firearms and other training are conducted, has been condemned for over a year."

In August, the 54-member department was short 14 officers with three additional officers on extended on-duty injury leave and three other offices were in the hiring process with other agencies, according to the letter.

"As a result, we are working at about 60 percent of our authorized compliment," the letter states, urging city officials to do more to attract and retain officers.

Other issues cited in the letter:

  • Antiquated leadership style of senior police administrator: "This administration leads by intimidation. Officers are in constant fear of retribution and are forced to work under constant stress."
  • Mayor's involvement in department operations: "The mayor has reversed the decision to assign the senior administrator who leads by fear and intimidation to administrative duties that would have limited his interaction with line officers. The mayor has openly tried to influence the chief to make personnel moves and other command decisions that are clearly within the Chief's statutory authority."
  • Mayor's refusal to respond to grievances: "The mayor refuses to respond to grievances filed by the Norwood Police Wage and Benefit Committee as well as other issues including attempts by the committee to save money on operational expenses."

In August, the chief wrote to his staff "We have reached a situation that is critical in regards to manpower and that critical situation is extended to police vehicles and other areas as well," according to documents obtained by FOX19 NOW.

He also wrote "While I have only been around 38 year and with the Department 21 years, I think this is likely the worst crisis this City has ever faced. Moving forward if we hope to survive as a Department and make it through the crisis we have only one choice and that is to work together.

"We must put aside whatever differences we have and work as a team. What this looks like a month from now, a year from now, I am not sure.

"Honestly, I have run out of answers as I have ran into walls and obstruction with much of what I have tried. ...If this sounds like doom and gloom, that is not my intention. I am simply giving you facts.

"I will tell you that I will continue to fight for what is the best for the City, The Department and the officers who work here. We can come out of this better in the end but it will take time and will take the cooperation of everyone."

On Sept. 29, Kramer asked for sick leave based on doctor advice, his suit alleges.

By late afternoon, Geers appointed Belleman to the long-unused position of acting chief. The position had been eliminated after previous controversy over pay and benefits.

That same day, the mayor promised the Cincinnati office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) a Norwood officer would remain on a specialized task force - after the chief decided to withdraw Norwood officers from such groups to save money and manpower. 

"Given the financial situation along with the reduced number of officers, Chief Kramer decided that officers employed by the City of Norwood needed to work back within Norwood to assist in reducing the overtime cost and help with safety within the City. 

"In addition, Chief Kramer, himself, worked a 12-hour shift for a few weeks and changed his job duties and responsibilities to include a beat patrol.

"The agent informed the Mayor he was not comfortable without the Chief in agreement and the Mayor said not to worry they would talk to the Chief," the suit reads.

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