November 24, 2014

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Mayor to finish review of arrest incident today

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Mayor Dave Gillock said he plans to complete his review of North Ridgeville Police Chief Mike Freeman’s reaction to his wife’s Nov. 19 arrest for shoplifting by Avon police today.

Target employees stopped Elaine Freeman for allegedly stealing health and beauty products and called Avon police, who arrested her and took her to the Avon Police Station to be booked on the theft charge.

Avon Police Chief Richard Bosley said he called Chief Freeman as a courtesy and told him to come and pick up his wife. When Freeman arrived, he was angry with the situation and wanted his wife to be given a ticket and released, Bosley has said, rather than go through the booking process.

Freeman has said he wasn’t asking for special treatment for his wife but was upset because Avon police had handcuffed Elaine Freeman and made her push the stroller with his 2-year-old son inside to the patrol car. They were then taken to the police station and held in the booking area.

Freeman also has said he doesn’t believe his son should have been kept in the holding area of the station.

But Bosley and Avon Mayor Jim Smith have both said Avon police followed proper procedure during the arrest.

Smith said the arresting officer showed good judgment in allowing Elaine Freeman to cover her handcuffs with a blanket as she left the store and that it made no sense for a mother to be separated from her young child.

“The right thing was done,” Smith said. “The compassionate thing was done.”

Smith said the Avon Police Department will make slight adjustments to make sure that everyone coming into the station to pick up a relative who has been arrested is treated the same way regardless of who they are.

“When it’s personal, it’s got to be treated like a regular citizen coming in the door,” Smith said.

Gillock declined to discuss what, if any, action will be taken against Freeman. He said he and other city officials met with the chief Monday to discuss the situation.

Freeman was originally hired in as a patrol officer in 1994 and worked his way up through the ranks serving as a detective, sergeant and lieutenant before taking over as police chief in 2011, according to his personnel file.

The file is full of commendations and letters of praise for Freeman’s work as a police officer going back years.

But the file also includes disciplinary action for car crashes on duty in 2004 and 2005 and for damaging a department radio that Freeman left on the rear of his police cruiser in 2009.

Then-Capt. Al Dent also wrote a letter of counseling to Freeman in 2003 for his reaction to a defendant’s comments during a speeding trial in Elyria Municipal Court.

Dent wrote Freeman “took exception to many of the things that the defendant was saying and even took some of them personally. Although this is understandable, your decision to respond to his comments, despite Prosecutor (Toni) Morgan’s warnings not to do so, was inappropriate.”

The letter doesn’t detail exactly what Freeman’s reaction was during the trial, but Dent warned him against future outbursts.

“You are a valued member of this department and your passion for this job, as well as for justice, is part of what makes you the officer that you are,” Dent wrote. “However, there are times when your passion may actually get in the way of your judgment, and this is what I believe may have occurred in this instance.”

Elaine Freeman is scheduled to make an initial appearance in Avon Lake Municipal Court today.

A Target spokeswoman declined to discuss the case.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.