Memo: CPD investigates 2 officers over off duty detail, pay

Memo: CPD investigates 2 officers over off duty detail, pay
FOX19 NOW/file
Cincinnati Police Lt. Danita Pettis during an interview at FOX19 NOW in July 2015. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)
Cincinnati Police Lt. Danita Pettis during an interview at FOX19 NOW in July 2015. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati police are conducting an internal investigation into whether two police officers got paid for off-duty details they may not have entirely worked, FOX19 NOW has learned.

We obtained a memo about the probe that was written by the commander of CPD"s Internal Investigation Section, Lt. Douglas Snider. It's addressed to Police Chief Eliot Isaac.

The subject of the Dec. 6 memo is "Conduct of Lieutenant (Danita) Pettis During Internal Investigations Section Interviews."

Pettis, an 18-year veteran with the department, served as a union representative for the two officers during their separate, back-to-back interviews that day, according to the memo. Union reps make sure the officers' union contract and legal rights are not violated.

Both officers had their police powers suspended and are on desk duty, FOX19 NOW has learned.

Cincinnati police did not respond to repeated requests for comment this week or our requests to interview all police members mentioned in the memo.

The police union president, Sgt. Dan Hils, declined comment.

FOX19 NOW is not naming the officers interviewed by investigators because they have not been charged.

One of the officers signed a document just before she was interviewed that notified her that her statements were under Garrity rights, according to the memo.

Garrity rights protect public employees from being compelled to incriminate themselves during investigatory interviews conducted by their employers.

They can be fired for information obtained during such statements but they cannot be criminally prosecuted for them.

By comparison, Miranda rights is a right to silence warning given by law enforcement to criminal suspects in police custody or custodial interrogation before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings.

Several members of IIS visually monitored the interview on a television in the IIS office, via a "non-recorded camera," Snider wrote. All interviews are audiotaped.

But Snider interrupted the interview after Petts instructed the officer not to answer one of the investigator's questions and then raised concerns she should be given Miranda rights, according to the memo.

The exchange went as follows:

Internal Investigator Sgt. George Jason to officer being questioned: "Have you ever worked a detail, or in this particular situation, and been compensated when you didn't work the entire time?"

Pettis: "Don't answer that question! Don't answer that question!"

Investigator: "Well, there's nothing wrong with working and being compensated if (Pettis interrupts and attempts to talk over the investigator) you have an understanding."

Pettis: "You're asking her a question that could incriminate her."

Investigator: "Well, this is (Garrity)."

Pettis: "I understand that but, that's a question that prob, possibly she should be Mirandized for."

At that point, Snider entered the room, according to the memo:

Snider: "For the record, this is Lt. Doug Snider. Lt. Pettis, I appreciate you being in this room."

Then, Snider directed his comments to the officer being interviewed: "You are under (Garrity). You're being asked a question under (Garrity) in regards to your employment. You're not read Miranda, you're being read (Garrity). You have to comply fully and truthfully with that, which means answering all questions, exactly as it states on that paper, so answer fully, and truthfully."

The officer responded, "Yes sir."

Snider left the room.

The interview continued:

Jason asked the officer questions regarding receiving compensation for a detail she didn't earn or she didn't work, the memo states.

Another investigator, Officer Michele Longworth, asked a similar question, in regards to the officer's knowledge of only one officer showing up for a two-person detail and being paid equivalent to two officers, according to the memo.

During questioning by both investigators, Pettis is seen "on camera demonstratively shaking her head" to indicate "no" to the officer as she is asked questions.

"Lieutenant Pettis then leans back in her chair, out of view of the camera angle for the remainder of the interview," the memo reads.

Upon conclusion of the interview, one of the internal investigators, Longworth, confirmed to Snider she saw Pettis shaking her head to the officer multiple times throughout the interview.

"In each instance,  (the officer) had yet to answer the questions asked of her when Lieutenant Pettis began shaking her head," Snider wrote in the memo to Isaac.

Next, Pettis accompanied a second officer into the same interview room, according to the memo.

Pettis and the officer were briefly left alone in the room while IIS members discussed the officer's interview and the one coming up, the memo states.

On the non-recording camera, according to the memo, Pettis was observed telling the officer who was about to be interviewed "to not admit to taking money, that (the officer about to be interviewed) "didn't collect $480, then proceed to provide (the officer about to be interviewed) with information from the interview with (the officer whose interview just concluded)."

"Snider immediately went into the interview room and removed Lieutenant Pettis as a representative, advising her that she was interfering with an ongoing Internal Investigation," the memo states. "Lieutenant Snider escorted Lieutenant Pettis out of the IIS office and into the hallway.

"Lieutenant Snider advised Lieutenant Pettis and Police Officer Eddie Hawkins….that Lieutenant Pettis would no longer be representing (the officer about to be interviewed) and that Officer Hawkins would need to represent her for her interview."

Snider's memo is signed by his supervisor, Captain Kimberly Williams, and dated Dec. 12.

"Based on the information above, Lt. Pettis violated rule 1.16 of the Department's Manual of Rules and Regulation. Written reprimand is recommended," reads a handwritten note at the bottom of the memo.

To date, Pettis has not been disciplined for the incident, FOX19 NOW has confirmed.

According to Cincinnati police's procedure manual, Rule 1.16 states that members of Cincinnati police "shall not interfere with cases being handled by other members of the Department or other governmental agency.

"Interference with a case includes, but is not limited to, actions taken which may affect an arrest, bond setting, prosecution, sentencing, or any other facet of an investigation. Members shall not undertake any investigation or official action not part of their regular duties without obtaining permission from a commander unless the circumstances require immediate police action. Members shall not undertake any investigation or official action involving family members without first consulting a supervisor..."

We showed the memo to FOX19 NOW legal analyst, Mike Allen, Hamilton County's former prosecutor who now has a private criminal defense practice Downtown.

After reviewing it, Allen said he was perplexed why Cincinnati police gave the first officer Garrity protection as opposed to Miranda. Both officers were given Garrity, FOX19 NOW has learned.

"If I were a police administrator and that came to me, I would immediately contact the prosecutor's office and go right to Miranda," Allen said.

"It's a very, very serious allegation. Anytime you have an allegation of a police officer stealing, which is what this is, it's a big deal. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation but I would have gone straight to the prosecutor's office.

"If there is probable cause to believe an offense was committed, that's what I would do. They investigate themselves, but at some point (CPD) need to notify the prosecutor with what they have. It's a serious offense," he said.

"Maybe there's a perfectly good reason why they didn't. I would just go right to Miranda and the county prosecutors. If the allegations are credible, they are going to get rid of her anyway. Why stop with the middleman, I guess, so to speak?"

It is not clear if police officials consulted city or county prosecutors on the investigation and whether it should be approached as a criminal or administrative one.

"I do not know if our office has been consulted and typically we do not comment on investigations," wrote Julie Wilson, prosecutor's office spokeswoman, in an email to FOX19 NOW.

"As with any case, if criminal charges are filed, that will be public information."

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