An internal investigation focused on an arrest made by a now former village police officer has determined John Whittemore’s use of force during an arrest in May was appropriate, according to a copy of the report obtained by this newspaper.
The officer still lost his job.
Yellow Springs Village Manager Patti Bates fired Whittemore, a probationary village officer hired in March, on July 5. She said he was not a good fit for the police department.
A July 5 termination letter addressed to Whittemore did not provide a reason for his dismissal.
“The investigation did not weigh into that,” Bates said in a written comment on Monday. “Officer Whittemore was still on probation and he was released under the probation, not the investigation.”
Probationary employees have limited rights, said Yellow Springs Police Chief David Hale.
“We’re not a union shop to begin with, but once you’re here a year, you have certain recourses,” he said. “But probation employees do not.”
The investigation stemmed from an arrest Whittemore made on May 30. Around 9:30 p.m., Whittemore saw Leonid Alexander Clark walking near a hotel on Xenia Avenue. In the report, Whittemore noted Clark appeared to be “agitated,” under the influence of alcohol and failed to obey commands to stop walking.
Whittemore reported he put his hand on Clark’s wrist to keep him from walking away before Clark tried to break free and turned toward the officer in “an aggressive manner.”
“I attempted to place Clark in an arm bar joint manipulation to gain compliance from him, but he began to wrestle with me,” Whittemore wrote. “I again attempted to place him in a arm bar to gain compliance, but he put his free arm around the back of my neck and tried to pull my head toward him. Fearing I may be assaulted, I delivered a knee strike to Clark’s torso, enabling me to gain distance from him and free myself from his grasp, however, he continued to fight with me.”
Clark didn’t show any signs of injury to his torso.
The internal investigation report dated the same day as Whittemore’s termination indicated he exercised “improper conduct” stating there was information missing from a one page narrative of his report. The missing facts became known later after Whittemore completed his report and the investigation was initiated, wrote Sgt. Joshuah Knapp in the 18-page internal investigation report.
“Facts such as the correlation of a person experiencing a mental health crisis as compared to the observable behavior Mr. Clark were not present,” Knapp wrote. “Also not present were any of Officer Whittemore’s previous experiences as a police officer to help establish himself as a reasonable officer which would be taken into account in establishing his reasonable suspicion. There was information related to the use of force by Officer Whittemore that was also not articulated in the report.”
The probe also concluded there was insufficient evidence to determine whether there was enough reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop Clark.
“It is my opinion … Officer Whittemore was acting within the legal scope of his authority but that there may be further case law on this matter that needs to (be) considered in making a determination of finding,” Knapp wrote. “It is also my opinion that this matter be reviewed by a criminal procedure attorney for judgment.”