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U.S. Atty: CPD captain ‘tried to shake down a sergeant for cash’

Updated: Jun. 7, 2019 at 4:46 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - A high-ranking member of the Cincinnati Police Department under investigation by the IRS is charged with one count of theft and bribery, prosecutors revealed Friday at his bond hearing.

Captain Michael Savard, 52, appeared in U.S. District Court in plainclothes, shackled at his hands and feet.

Savard was aware of the ongoing investigation at the time he committed the crime: Shaking down a fellow Cincinnati police officer for $5,000 cash in exchange for retiring early so the sergeant could move up on the promotional list to the rank of lieutenant, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman announced at a news conference.

“When we are talking about a police captain who is already under investigation for receiving financial benefits as a result of employment with the CPD and then there is an allegation that person tries to shake down a sergeant. We just can’t look the other way,” Glassman said.

“This is a very tough day for CPD when a member of our department, especially a high ranking member, defies the public trust and is accused of this type of behavior. It impacts the entire organization and the representation that the department tries to represent,” said Police Chief Eliot Isaac.

He joined Glassman for the joint briefing with William Cheung, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation.

The sergeant’s promotion eligibility was going to expire this month, Glassman said, and Savard told the sergeant he would to retire June 21 so the sergeant would not need to retake a civil service promotional exam and possibly lose his top position on the list.

The conversation about the arrangement first occurred May 20, Glassman said. A second conversation between the two on May 30 was audio recorded. On Thursday, the sergeant gave Savard $5,000 in marked bills.

Savard was immediately arrested by a member of Cincinnati police who has been working with the IRS on the joint investigation and an IRS representative.

His place of arrest, according to his booking sheet at the Butler County Jail, is 801 Linn St. That’s the location of Cincinnati Police Records Section where Savard has been working in an administrative role since he lost his police powers early this year.

If convicted, Savard could spend up to 10 years behind bars and face a $250,000 fine.

Savard was released Friday on a personal recognizance bond after his bond hearing.

He was ordered not to have contact with witnesses related to the case.

Savard also cannot use or possess a firearm or have any in his home.

He is due back in court on June 26 for a preliminary hearing.

Read the criminal complaint below:

As for the sergeant involved in this, FOX19 NOW is told that person is cooperating with this investigation.

Police couldn’t comment on whether they are being investigated as well.

Cincinnati police officials suspended Savard’s police powers back in January and he has been on desk duty ever since.

Cincinnati police captain arrested, facing federal charges

Police have not said why they stripped Savard of his badge and gun, but FOX19 NOW has confirmed his arrest and suspension is related to an ongoing federal investigation.

On Friday, Glassman stressed the investigation is being handled jointly by the IRS and Cincinnati police.

IRS Criminal Investigation looks into potential violations of tax laws such as tax evasion and related financial crimes like money laundering.

Glassman’s statements clarified statements about the investigation made late last year by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

Deters told local media including FOX19 NOW Cincinnati Police Department’s Vice Unit was under federal investigation, and two officers were suspended as a result: Vice Officer Patricia Simpson, 42, and Officer Quiana Campbell, 38, who worked most recently in the impound lot and also worked several off-duty details at nightclubs and bars as well as other venues like Cincinnati Reds games.

Both officers were stripped of their police powers, guns and badges in November, police records show.

They remain on desk duty. Their attorney has declined comment.

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Savard has been a Cincinnati police officer since April 1994, according to his personnel file.

He oversaw the department’s Special Services Section, which includes the K-9 and traffic units, and worked scores of off-duty details, including several at bars and clubs, while he was a lieutenant, police records show.

He was promoted to captain in April 2017 and was transferred to the Special Services Section in 2018.

His latest available job performance evaluation, from 2017, rated him “Exceeds Standards” on all sections, a copy of it shows.

Internal investigations, however, determined he violated police procedures for off-duty police details in 2015 and was reprimanded at least once, records show.

One of the reprimands, from June 2016, was for failure of good behavior. An an internal investigation concluded he violated procedures in 2015 related to personally dispersing lump sum cash given to him from representatives of Celebrities Nightclub in Roselawn to pay officers working off-duty details there, according to a copy of the reprimand.

Savard supervised "virtually every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night detail at the club, other police records show.

“The Department prohibits employment that presents a potential conflict of interest or reflects an abuse of official position that could give rise to illegal or unethical practices,” his reprimand states. “Sworn personnel, whether on duty or working a detail, may not handle currency or deposit bags. Sworn personnel are limited to escorting a responsible business employee.

“No sworn employee will receive lump sum payments for disbursement to officers working details. The outside employer must pay each detail officer directly or through City payroll," the reprimand states. “Secondary employers are required to document cash payments to officers working detail. An officer receiving a cash payment must sign for the cash payment.”

Cincinnati police recently changed its procedure for outside employment for officers by prohibiting them from taking cash payments. The new policy, effective May 1, came just shy of two years after another police captain, Jeff Butler, recommended to Police Chief Eliot Isaac in a June 2017 memo that preparations be made to eliminate cash details in 2018.

The policy states: “In the case of extension of police service employment, the employer hires not the individual but the uniform, badge, gun and authority of the officer. This activity must remain closely regulated. All rules, regulations, policies, procedures and directives applicable to officers in an on-duty status also apply to officers engaged in extension of police service outside employment.”

Last week, a police spokesman said 13 Cincinnati Police Department employees were without police powers “due to administrative causes."

Police provided FOX19 NOW with the following list of names last week. We asked Friday for an updated list and will update this story when we receive it.

An attorney for one of the officers on the list, Donte Hill, however, told FOX19 NOW he is no longer suspended and was back on patrol.

Hill’s powers were restored last month after they were suspended in late December, he said.

Hill and another officer, Dennis Barnette, were caught on body camera footage using the N-word during separate police responses months apart, police records show.

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The two received their police powers again the same day they filed separate suits against the chief and City Manager Patrick Duhaney, each in their capacities and personally.

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