September 19, 2014

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Amherst officer’s suspension reduced by a day

AMHERST — The Amherst Police Department has reached an agreement with a part-time officer to reduce a suspension imposed on him for threatening to arrest a supervisor at the Lorain County Jail last year.

Officer Kyle Gelenius originally was given a three-day suspension with one day held in abeyance, but he filed a grievance arguing that Amherst Police Chief Joe Kucirek didn’t have “just cause to discipline” him.

Gelenius, who works as a full-time Lorain police officer and serves as head of that department’s police union, agreed to drop his grievance last month after Kucirek reduced the suspension to two days with one day held in abeyance.

The agreement also warns Gelenius that future misconduct on his part will not be tolerated.

Gelenius referred a request for comment to his attorney, Robert M. Phillips, who said his client felt it was better to reach a compromise than continue to fight over the discipline.

“At the end of the day, it was the fair thing to do,” he said.

An internal Amherst police investigation determined that Gelenius became upset after jail personnel initially refused to accept a drunken prisoner he had brought to the jail from EMH Amherst Hospital on May 5, 2012.

Cpl. Debra Miller told investigators that jail nurses told Gelenius that he needed more medical documentation than the doctor’s note he had brought with him before the woman could be booked. Gelenius responded that the hospital’s printer was broken and he didn’t have additional documentation.

The policy angered Gelenius, according to Miller’s account.

“He began pointing his finger in my face and in an elevated, aggressive tone stated ‘I don’t care because I will drop her off in your lobby,’ ” Miller wrote. “I advised him to not put his finger in my face. He then stated, ‘You are this close to being arrested.’ ”

In Gelenius’ version of events, it was Miller who was the aggressive one in the conversation and stated that he didn’t recall pointing a finger in her face. He said Miller actually pointed her finger at him while he was sitting in a chair.

According to the report, he said he told Miller, “If you don’t calm down you are about to be arrested.’’

He also didn’t deny that he threatened to leave the prisoner in the jail lobby.

Gelenius acknowledged that he didn’t have the authority to arrest Miller at the jail and should have handled the situation differently.

The woman was booked into the jail and Gelenius departed after offering “an empty apology,” Miller wrote.

Kucirek, who declined comment Tuesday, wrote in his initial decision to suspend Gelenius that it was improper to have threatened to arrest Miller and that he had concerns about the “authoritarian manner” Gelenius displayed toward women with whom he dealt as a police officer.

Gelenius also was the subject of an internal Lorain police investigation for the May 2011 arrest of Jennifer McCartney, who sued the city and several officers and was paid $45,000 to drop the lawsuit.

Gelenius and another officer were dispatched to McCartney’s house on a tip from off-duty Lorain police Officer Tabitha Angello who claimed McCartney had a warrant out for her arrest.

McCartney and her family insisted to Gelenius that she wasn’t wanted by police and reported that he pulled her out of the house and took her to his police car before determining that he had arrested the wrong Jennifer McCartney.

Gelenius let McCartney go, but not before threatening to have her charged with resisting arrest and obstructing official business. Prosecutors declined to move forward with charges against McCartney.

The outcome of that investigation wasn’t available Tuesday.

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