West Chester police chief posts about cheerleaders after warning to watch comments

West Chester police chief posts about cheerleaders after warning to watch comments
West Chester Police Chief Joel Herzog (Source: Provided by West Chester Township)

WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio (FOX19) - West Chester’s police chief, who was recently warned by township trustees to watch his remarks after he admitted he made inappropriate comments about the attractiveness of women and race, has drawn some criticism online over a social media post about cheerleaders.

Police Chief Joel Herzog posted a picture on Twitter earlier this month of Lakota West High School cheerleaders posing on a police vehicle.

The post drew mixed responses with some in support and others criticizing it.

“Not judging the girls, but this ‘tradition’ needs to stop. It’s sexist. You are using them to “dress up” a taxpayer-funded police vehicle. How do you not understand how wrong this image is?” @annalichiter responded to his tweet.

“Joel, what are you thinking?” asked @joanpowell513 in a tweet. “I support both the cheerleaders and the police department, but this combination is not a great idea.”

Other responses included: “Teenage girls are not props” and “Inappropriate, sexist and creepy.”

Some of the cheerleaders’ mothers and the chief’s daughter are among defenders of his post.

“There was no hidden agenda here. My daughter and several of her best friends are in this picture,” @ranaegroh said in a tweet. “It is a tradition that is fun for the girls and something they want to do. I assure you none of them felt as if this was intended for anything other than that!”

“Thank you for lending LWHS the tank. Great community,” tweeted @Jane96795251.

“To those who are criticizing this photo on this tradition I have to ask if your daughter is in the photo? If not then you have no right to judge or comment. You don’t know these girls or their families,” tweeted @NickieObermeyer.

The day after his Aug. 7 post, the chief tweeted: “This world would be a much better place if everyone would first assume good intent when reading an email, FB post, or Tweet instead of looking for an argument.”

In June, the local chapter of the NAACP and CAIR Ohio called for federal authorities to investigate complaints against the chief that were filed by his two hand-picked captains who rose up through the ranks with him.

West Chester Township trustees recently announced investigations are over into all complaints from officers about the chief and there is no corruption, retaliation or “underlying issue of racism or sexism affecting our organization.”

Three officers and a lieutenant filed the complaints June 28-July 5, township records show. Those were investigated in-house, by township administration and human resources.

The complaints were filed just before the township released a report on July 7 with the outcome of an investigation conducted at a cost to taxpayers of $50,000 by a private attorney into other complaints about the chief that two veteran captains, Joe Gutman and Jamie Hensley, filed with the township earlier this year.

The complaints accused Herzog of alleged misconduct ranging from racism and sexism to retaliation to telling officers to not arrest other law enforcement officials suspected of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, township records show.

Herzog has said his comments as described by the captains’ complaints were taken out of context and he has faith the community knows him better than this.

He also has said he is working to be a better leader.

The private attorney who looked into the captains’ complaints, Doug Duckett, recommended the chief should not receive formal discipline despite admitting he called Middle Easterners “terrorists,” Indians “dots” and referred to a Latino officer as “brown Mike,” township records show. He should take steps to be “more appropriate and professional.”

Duckett wrote that he warned Herzog against using such “lingo,” but stopped short of urging a reprimand even while noting such language violated both township policy and anti-discrimination law.

Duckett’s review also confirmed allegations from the captains and their attorney that Herzog referred to African Americans who interacted with police “Number 2s,” and “at times commented on the attractiveness of women to subordinates.”

One of the captains has since quit amid an internal investigation, and the township has put the chief and the remaining captain on performance improvement plans. The chief’s plan states in part:

“You must not make any comments, including jokes or humor, that could reasonably be interpreted as targeting any employee, applicant, or member of the public based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), national origin or ethnic ancestry, marital status, age, or disability, or any other personal characteristic protected by law or Township policy.”

Here is the chief’s performance improvement plan in its entirety:

We sought comment about Chief Herzog’s cheerleader post from both him and township officials.

“There is no comment from the Chief at this time,” Assistant Township Administrator Lisa Brown wrote in an email response.

She sent us the following response on behalf of the township:

“West Chester Township has a history of supporting the Lakota High School cheerleaders by providing fire and SWAT apparatus for their team photos. Characterizing these athletes as anything other than the strong, confident young women they are does a great disservice not only to them but to all other young women taking pride in their athletic participation.”

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