That’s the rationale of Safety/Service Director Robert Fowler who on July 23 suspended police Officer Jeff Jackson for 30 days for not wearing the vest while responding in May to a call of an officer in trouble.
Fowler said Jackson had been previously warned about not wearing his vest on duty and Jackson put himself and residents at risk. Fowler said an officer not wearing a vest is less likely to survive being shot.
“What if he couldn’t stop the perpetrator from taking out someone else?” Fowler asked.
Fowler said the severity of the suspension was related to Jackson’s previous disciplinary problems. Jackson was demoted from sergeant in February and suspended 14 days. Jackson was accused of manipulating his hours to get a three-day workweek.
The punishment has been appealed by the police union, Lorain Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3. Jackson was also criticized for poor attendance in supervisory reviews in 2001, 2006 and 2011, which the union partially attributed to poor health.
The union filed a grievance over the latest discipline, according to Officer Kyle Gelenius, union president. Police traditionally respond en masse to officer-in-trouble calls and Gelenius said Jackson reacted properly.
“When an officer calls for assistance, you immediately go,” Gelenius said.
Gelenius said Jackson was driving to a substation on a hot day for a break and removed the vest when officers Eric Manicsic and Tod Reed radioed for help. The officers were fighting a mentally disturbed man in a Tower Boulevard apartment complex, according to Gelenius.
Gelenius said supervisors learned Jackson wasn’t wearing a vest while reviewing police cruiser video of the incident. The review occurred because Officer Eric Alten collided with the back of Jackson’s cruiser responding to the call. Jackson was outside the cruiser when the crash occurred.
Gelenius said only patrol officers are required to wear vests on duty and some of the police who responded to the call weren’t wearing vests. He said Fowler’s logic regarding Jackson endangering residents was flawed.
“Jackson took an oath to serve the citizens and obviously that involves putting yourself in personal peril,” Gelenius said. “Since Fowler is not a police officer, he shouldn’t be commenting on things he knows nothing about.”