Interview recording shows moment police officer realized her mistake in missing man case

‘Oh, right there... I did not see that when he was showing me the pictures.’
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 11:27 PM EDT

WEST CHESTER, Ohio (WXIX) - An interview recorded during the investigation into a former West Chester police officer shows that she was confronted with the very evidence she was accused of having overlooked.

Former officer Margaret Clem resigned before she could be fired after she failed to document and follow up on a tip she received in March about the January disappearance of 31-year-old Alexander Eslen, according to township officials and police records.

Eslen was found dead in a pond at Union Station Apartments on March 19. The coroner ruled his death an accidental drowning.

Task Force One searched the pond in early March to no avail. A township spokesperson said at the time that snow and ice had complicated the search.

Clem was at the apartments on March 10 on police business unrelated to Eslen when, according to a police memo, maintenance workers told her they had seen something floating in the pond and that they believed it could be a body.

Clem reportedly declined when one worker volunteered to show her where he had seen the object. She also reportedly looked at a picture the worker had taken of the object in the pond and replied that she did not recognize anything in the image.

Clem did not have her body camera on at the time, which violated a department policy requiring the cameras be activated during all enforcement and investigative contacts including stops and field interview situations, according to police records.

Two days after Enslen’s body was found, the apartment manager contacted police to relay the maintenance workers’ encounter with Clem, saying Clem had been “dismissive toward the information,” according to a police memo.

Police officials questioned Clem about it. She responded initially that she didn’t remember the specific encounter with the workers but did recall saying or waving hello to someone.

Said one interviewer, “I just want to clarify that you are being 100% honest. We had an issue previously where you were spoken to, and you were less than truthful.”

Soon Clem conceded the maintenance team had shown her a picture and told her they believed it could be Enslen’s body. The interviewers then showed her the picture.

“Yeah,” Clem responds, “that’s what he showed me. O-ok.”

Asked what she sees, Clem replies, “Oh, right there... I did not see that when he was showing me the pictures.”

Clem said the lighting in which she viewed the photo initially could have prevented her from noticing the object.

At another point in the interview, Clem told the interviewers 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.

An administrative hearing was held on April 21. Clem said she “did not have a reason for not following up on the information given to her about a potential body in the water.” She also maintained she did not recall “being asked to be shown the object in the water by the maintenance workers.”

Clem’s superiors concluded she was in violation of department rules and regulations for failing to advise or assist citizens in a prompt and courteous manner and failing to thoroughly document information from citizens relating to the complaints or reports according to police procedures, police records show.

She was also found in violation of the department policy regarding use of body cameras.

“Clem chose to resign before final discipline was issued,” summarized Township Spokesperson Barb Wilson.

Clem’s personnel file shows this wasn’t the first time she had been warned or disciplined for failing to make thorough reports or inadequately responding to calls. In November 2021 she was called out for a report lacking details. One month prior, she was reminded she needed to respond to calls in an expeditious manner.

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