April 19, 2014

Elyria
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Kipton delays decision on disbanding police department

KIPTON — The Village Council on Thursday decided to gather more information before making a decision on whether to dissolve its police department.

Mayor Dennis Watson said village officials will meet with a former Cuyahoga County police chief who now is an instructor at Lorain County Community College’s police academy to discuss options for keeping the department open and what the village would have to do to close up its cop shop.

“We need to decide, ‘Is it worth it?’ ” Watson said.

Several councilmembers had indicated at a meeting last week that they favored doing away with the troubled police department, which has seen its top two officers suspended this year and the remainder of its officers resign.

At the moment, the department effectively is defunct because its last two officers resigned last week, leaving county sheriff’s deputies
in charge of law enforcement in the village of about 280.Watson said several vocal critics of the police department were at the
meeting Thursday, but that doesn’t mean everyone in town wants the department dismantled.

“There’s a lot of people calling the house and voicing their opinion, but they don’t want to come to the meeting and get in a shouting match,” he said.

Council could decide the fate of the police department as early as its Sept. 10 meeting, but Watson said it might take longer.

“We want to get it settled so we can move on with life,” he said.

In the meantime, Watson said he and Council President Bob Meilander are trying to schedule a meeting with suspended police Chief Pablo Cruz for Saturday to discuss the allegations that prompted the mayor to send Cruz a letter informing him he would be fired.

Cruz has been suspended since early this year, initially for being reimbursed twice for $98 worth of film he purchased for the village’s
Christmas party in December. He was suspended again this spring, just before he was set to return to work, so Watson could investigate allegations Cruz may have been mishandling paperwork on police training and credentials.

If Cruz decides to keep fighting for his $7-an-hour, 30-hour-a-month job, he could appeal Watson’s decision to fire him to Council. It might come to that, but Watson said he has yet to lay out all the evidence gathered during a state investigation out to the chief.

Right now, Watson said, Cruz “feels like he did nothing wrong.”

Contact Brad Dicken at 653-6258 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.