WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio (FOX19) - Leaders of the union that represents West Chester police have rejected calls from some officers for an emergency meeting this week ahead of a regularly scheduled one July 13 to take a no-confidence vote in Police Chief Joel Herzog.
“The Executive Board of West Chester FOP Lodge 186 is aware of recent statements to the media from some members of the Lodge requesting an emergency meeting of the Lodge for the purpose of taking a no confidence vote in the Chief of Police. After thoughtful consideration of the members’ request, the Executive Board determined not to hold an emergency meeting, but expects the matter involving the Township’s investigation into allegations against Chief Herzog to be fully discussed at the Lodge’s next regular scheduled meeting,” the union said in a statement emailed to FOX19 NOW at 9:45 p.m. Saturday, July 4.
“At this time, we have no evidence to suggest the investigation will not be a full and fair investigation and we believe the administration of the Police Department, including the Chief, is entitled to the same fair and objective evaluation of the evidence as we expect when there is an investigation of our members. A rush to judgement is not in the best interests of this organization or its members.”
A controversy has erupted within the West Chester Police Department after two veteran captains who rose up through the ranks with Chief Herzog, Jamie Hensley and Joe Gutman, and their attorney recently filed lengthy complaints with the township about the chief including allegations of racism and retaliation.
One of the captains, Hensley, abruptly quit June 23, writing in his resignation letter:
“I believe this is the only option left that protects my family, my health, and my career without compromising my values. It is unfortunate to have been treated this way for taking a principled stance and others may fear coming forward in the future as a result.”
The following day, the township gave FOX19 NOW copies of the captains’ complaints - which we had sought for nearly two months - and a statement confirming the outside investigation, saying trustees sought an outside review “to unravel the truth.”
Last week, FOX19 NOW obtained copies of another complaint about West Chester’s police chief, made by a third member of the force who has come forward with allegations of racially inappropriate comments. One of the accusations is Chief Herzog referred to two officers named Mike as “White Mike” and “Brown Mike.”
The FOP statement does not mention the third complaint.
Officer Charles Hawkins wrote in a 2-page memo “Regarding: Ongoing Investigation into Retaliation and Workplace Harassment” to Township Administrator Larry Burks and the human relations manager that he was reaching out to them “due to the fact that I have no confidence in the upper levels of the command staff in addressing my concerns.”
Officer Hawkins says he and other officers “have been subjected to similar behavior from the Chief. I would like to preface this complaint by stating that this does not come from a place of anger or retaliation, as I am simply assisting in adding to the truth of this conflict,” according to his complaint.
In addition to calling for a vote of no-confidence in the chief, some officers also are questioning how the township is handling the complaints and whether an outside investigator will talk to all employees.
Chief Herzog was out of the office last week and unavailable for comment, according to a township spokeswoman.
He could not be immediately reached for comment early Monday. We will keep trying and update this story once we hear back.
Chief Herzog has firmly denied the accusations from the captains.
He has said he has faith that the community knows him better than this and he is working to be a better leader. Herzog has been with the police department since 1991 and chief since 2014.
Last week, Township Trustee Mark Welch said the report from a private attorney reviewing allegations against the chief, Douglas Duckett, would probably be out this week.
Township officials have repeatedly said the initial findings of the investigation determined the most egregious accusations related to the chief were unfounded.
Welch recently told us that included claims of racism and public record tampering.
The captains’ complaints and allegations against Herzog were not related to the handling of an investigation or efforts directly applicable to specific law enforcement activities in the community, according to the township.