West Chester police officer quits after failing to act on tip about missing man found dead

Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 9:49 PM EDT
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WEST CHESTER, Ohio (WXIX) - A West Chester police officer recently quit after an internal investigation determined she failed to act on a tip related to a missing man who was found dead more than a week later, police records show.

Alexander Enslen, 31, was reported missing earlier this year after he was last seen early Jan. 31 on Cincinnati-Dayton Road near Walmart off Interstate 75.

He and his roommate reportedly left a bar along that road and were heading back to their apartment - only about a half-mile away from the bar - when Enslen crossed the street in a different direction.

His mother has said security cameras showed him near the Cincinnati-Dayton Road Walmart around that time, but Enslen never returned home.

A pond at Union Station Apartments off Fountains Boulevard near Cincinnati-Dayton Road, was searched by Task Force One in early March, to no avail.

Weather conditions including snow and ice made it difficult, a township spokeswoman said at the time.

Police then said they planned to expand the search area with the thought Enslen might have gone north to Middletown to see his girlfriend.

On March 10, Officer Margaret Clem was dispatched to Union Station Apartments to make a death notification on another person and was told while she was there by maintenance workers about something floating in a pond on the property, a police memo shows.

Clem, an officer since 2017, violated a police policy when she “failed to act/document/and share” vital information: that the maintenance workers thought they saw an object floating in the pond that appeared to be a human body, police records show.

A maintenance worker at the complex told police reviewing her response that he saw an object in the pond that resembled a human body or possibly a log. He asked Clem if she wanted him to show her the location of his observation and she declined.

She told him the pond had already been searched and nothing was located, the documents state.

“He remembered Officer Clem mentioned something about search teams using sonar and nothing was located. He observed Officer Clem leave the complex without searching the pond or surrounding areas.”

It’s not clear if she checked the pond or just left while she was there on March 10 because she violated another police department policy by not turning on her body camera, which is required during all enforcement and investigative contacts including stops and field interview (s) situations, police records show.

The maintenance worker took photos the same day he spoke to the officer and showed the officer one of them, the document states. He also offered to show her where he saw the object.

She viewed the picture, but did not recognize anything in the image and declined his offer to be shown where he saw the object. She again reiterated the pond had been searched by police and nothing was found,” police wrote in“Statement of Charges.”

“The conversation ended and Officer Clem cleared the scene. Officer Clem left without conducting any further investigation regarding (redacted by the township) claims, including: documenting his allegations, passing the information along to investigators or informing her immediate supervisors. Additionally, Officer Clem failed to active her body-worn camera during her initial call for service and during her contact with (redacted by the township) and (redacted by the township.)”

Enslen was found dead in the water on March 19 by someone walking a dog in the area.

“Officer Clem was present during the recovery and didn’t mention her earlier contact to anyone,” police records show.

The Butler County coroner has ruled Enslen’s death an accidental drowning.

On March 21, the apartment complex manager contacted a police sergeant and relayed the maintenance workers’ encounter with the officer and her reaction when he relayed he saw an object in the pond that appeared to be a human body.

“The officer was described as being dismissive toward the information,” the sergeant who took the call from the property manager wrote in a March 22 memo to Police Chief Joel Herzog.

When police officials questioned Clem about it, she responded at first that she didn’t remember speaking to anyone while she was at the apartment but did remember saying/waving hello to someone.

When pressed, she “didn’t recall anything significant.” Then she said she recalled someone asking about the missing person case and telling her the pond had been searched and nothing was found, police records show.

They reminded her of the importance of her answering all questions truthfully and to the best of her ability, records show.

She told them she couldn’t remember the conversations exactly as they occurred and insinuated she may not be recalling everything accurately. If someone had notified her of an object in the pond she surely would have investigated it further, she said, according to police records.

Clem ultimately told investigators she “was only paying half attention to things the gentleman (was) saying and didn’t believe they were trying to convey useful information to her. She believed they were just mentioning things in passing and wanted to make conversation with a cop,” the internal investigation states.

The complaints against her were sustained when the internal investigation concluded on April 14, police records show.

An administrative hearing was held in the chief’s conference room on April 21.

During that hearing, Clem gave a statement described in police records as the following:

“Officer Clem emphasized how much she loves her job and recognizes she has had difficulties with completing tasks. She felt since just before being hired that she has had to deal with many personal issues that have caused her to lose focus. Officer Clem went on about some other issues she was addressing that she believes have contributed to her mistakes over the years and that she felt some past supervisors watched her too closely which put additional pressure on her. When addressing this specific issue, Officer Clem did not have a reason for not following up on the information given to her about a potential body in the water. Officer Clem stated she did not recall being asked to be shown the object in the water by the maintenance workers.”

Police officials read the administrative charges against her and read the summary of the investigation.

“Officer Clem was given an opportunity to give any mitigating factors or present any witnesses. Officer Clem spoke about the love for her job and this community. She did not have anything to add to justifY her inaction for this issue,” reads the summary of the hearing, written by the police chief.

“She did speak about issues she was dealing with and trying to overcome to be able to do her job better,” the chief noted.

He determined, however, that she violated department rules and regulations in regards to providing necessary advice/and/or assistance to citizens in a prompt and courteous manner and failure to thoroughly document information from citizens relating to the complaints or reports according to police procedures, his report shows.

He also concluded she was in violation of the department policy that requires officers to activate body-worn cameras during enforcement and investigative contacts.

The chief took a brief recess to determine her discipline.

“The hearing was resumed and before discipline was given, Officer Clem was given one last opportunity to speak on her behalf,” he wrote.

“At that time Officer Clem thanked the department for the opportunities she was given over the years and she tendered her written resignation from the West Chester Police Department. I accepted Officer Clem’s resignation and ended the hearing without (a) disposition due to her resignation.”

FOX19 NOW reached out to the officer on Monday and will update this story once we hear back.

A township spokeswoman, Barb Wilson, wrote in an email Monday to FOX19 NOW when she released the internal investigation and other records: “Basically, as soon as command staff became aware of this issue, an internal investigation was launched. Clem chose to resign before final discipline was issued.

“The Chief spoke with Mr. Enslen’s family as soon as he was made aware of the officer’s failure to make the report. While this did not impact the outcome of Mr. Enslen’s tragic story, it could have resolved the family’s pain sooner. Clem’s inaction, in this case, did not represent the type of law enforcement agency we are.”

FOX19 NOW requested the now-former officer’s personnel file when we originally sought these records on May 17.

“We are putting together Clem’s personnel report and hope to have (it) shortly,” Wilson wrote.

We also requested audio recordings of Clem’s internal investigation and administrative hearing.

We did not receive her personnel file or audio recordings Monday, so we followed up on Tuesday.

In another email, Wilson responded: “The audio and personnel file are being reviewed by our attorneys. They’ll be provided when the review is complete.”

This is the second time in three years that an officer with the West Chester Police Department has quit or been fired related to a violation of department rules and regulations in serious cases.

The police chief fired Officer James Thomas in June 2019 after determining he violated four procedures related to the handling of a drug overdose, police records show.

That came after the chief suspended Thomas for 40 hours six months earlier, in December 2018, after police officials concluded he made crucial mistakes related to a woman who went missing and was ultimately found dead earlier that year.

Ellie Weik reported receiving texts and a video of her shot by someone on her patio in April 2018.

Thomas responded to the woman’s home but an internal investigation determined he failed to identify her ex-boyfriend, Michael Strouse, as the suspect and did not act with a sense of urgency between the time Weik alerted police and August 2018, when her body was found in a Liberty Township field, internal records show.

The police union filed a grievance on Thomas’ behalf, but his firing was upheld, township records show.

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