Recent cases show how tough it is to prove that cops lied on the job

At least eight Dayton cops have lost their jobs since 2003 after being accused of providing false information.

A Dayton police sergeant suing to get her job back after she was fired last year for lying and falsifying documents is one of at least eight Dayton cops who have lost their jobs since 2003 after being accused of providing false information to a supervisor or in a report, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.

But allegations involving lying aren’t always easy to prove. Two of the fired employees were reinstated, including one who still works in the department. A potential third case involves Sgt. Tonina Lamanna, who filed a lawsuit seeking reinstatement after she was fired for allegedly lying when questioned by supervisors about accessing the police chief’s personnel records.

Lamanna’s attorney, David Greer, said her termination was in retaliation for suing the city for sex discrimination.

“It’s our position that Ms. Lamanna didn’t lie to anybody,” Greer said. “If anything, there was a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. There was no intentional falsehood on her part.”

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City and police officials say lying is a cardinal sin for officers because it undermines confidence in law enforcement and therefore public safety. Not telling the truth in some cases has carried a harsher penalty than an officer misusing equipment or not doing his or her job.

Det. Lindsey Dulaney received a five-day suspension last year for mishandling an allegation of child abuse by a man who later killed the child. She was able to keep her job after being cleared of allegations that she lied about her actions.

Credibility at stake

Patrick Oliver, professor of criminal justice at Cedarville University, said a zero-tolerance approach to dishonesty is the “gold standard” and “best practice” for police departments.

“(Police) have more authority than any other job in our society, and much of that authority is based on their honesty and integrity,” he said.

Oliver said police officers give testimony in court that puts people behind bars and can secure search warrants. A documented case of dishonesty by a cop can be used in court to undermine the officers’ credibility every time he or she takes the stand, making them unable to do their job.

“What law enforcement agencies don’t want to have occur is the public perception that dishonesty is permissible by a law enforcement officer, because if the public begins to believe that, to think that, it damages the credibility of all law enforcement officers at the agency and in a worst-case scenario for all law enforcement officers at large,” Oliver said.

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Lamanna was fired in October after an internal investigation found she wasn’t truthful when asked if she accessed Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl’s personnel records using an internal portal. The incident occurred shortly after Biehl’s gun was reported stolen out of his unlocked car at his home.

Lamanna admits she accessed the file — which isn’t prohibited under department policy — after hearing rumors about Biehl’s gun being stolen, but says her answers were misrepresented or misunderstood by investigators.

In testimony before the Dayton Civil Service Board, which upheld Lamanna’s firing, Assistant Police Chief Mark Ecton said the department has to take a hard line against officers who don’t tell the truth.

“Basically if someone is found to have been dishonest, the prosecutor has to disclose that, and then that officer’s credibility in court can be challenged because they are proven to be dishonest and it can impact the case they’re on or any other case that they may be called for in the future, or even past cases that they were involved in where they were the sole witness,” Ecton said.

Lamanna on April 10 appealed her termination in Montgomery County Common Pleas court. The filing says the city twisted her words to accuse her of lying, possibly motivated by her open federal civil rights lawsuit accusing the department of gender discrimination.

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‘They have different standards’

The Dayton Daily News’ review of city records found two employees were reinstated after appealing their firings over allegations that included dishonesty.

Police Officer Walter Evans was fired on March 31, 2003, after an internal investigation led to a slew of misconduct allegations against him. He ultimately won his job back and continues to work as an officer.

Evans was found guilty of a number of charges but cleared of an allegation that he falsified radio cards or other records indicating the location of the arrests of two individuals, his personnel records show.

He was found at fault for failing to complete police reports for about 26 crashes, incidents and calls for service between January and September 2007, along with other infractions, including missing a pretrial hearing.

An arbitrator reversed the firing, ruling that Evans’ 12 years of discipline-free service as an officer “suffices to balance the scale” and reduce the severity of his discipline.

Evans couldn’t be reached for comment.

In another case from 2003, Officer Andrew Clark was reinstated with back pay after he appealed his dismissal. He took disability retirement in 2012.

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In an interview with the Daily News, Clark said his firing was an effort by the then interim Dayton police chief, William McManus, to bolster his resume as a disciplinarian as he applied for a job as police chief of Minneapolis.

“Chief McManus was triyng to make something out of nothing,” Clark said.

Clark was fired July 15, 2003, after an investigation found he hit robbery suspect Charles L. Harden with his gun during an arrest and then lied about it.

Harden was involved in an armed robbery of a credit union in West Carrollton. He and other suspects fled in a car that crashed in Dayton. Clark was one of the responding officers and a West Carrollton police cruiser shows him on top of Harden after he fell down; Clark’s hand, holding a gun, quickly rose and fell.

Clark denied striking Harden. McManus disagreed.

“He struck him with his gun, holstered his weapon, then (hand) cuffed him,” McManus said in an interview with the Daily News at the time. “It was clearly inappropriate, and that’s something that this department won’t tolerate.”

Clark appealed the firing and in May 2004 an arbitrator found the video was ambiguous and ordered the officer to be reinstated.

Clark said the department accused him of lying because he disagreed with its version of what happened.

“I said I didn’t (hit him). They said I did, and they accused me of lying,” he said.

The city in December 2010 paid $15,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Harden, who claimed he suffered injuries in the incident. Clark said the city settled the suit only because it was cheaper than fighting it.

Clark served as a police officer until 2012, when he resigned and later obtained a medical disability from the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund for complications from a 2009 on-the-job incident.

He said the department uses its policy against lying to single people out.

“They have different standards for different people,” Clark said. “They don’t follow a consistent protocol.”

In a statement, Dayton Deputy City Manager Joseph Parlette ssid the city would not respond to questions involving personnel matters but wrote, “All of our employees are expected to be truthful and forthright in their words and actions.”

Review follows tragic death

The February 2017 death of three-year-old Brayden Ferguson has led to a department-wide review of the police response to a 2015 abuse case involving the same child.

Dulaney, the detective who investigated the 2015 case, was disciplined for her actions involving that case but cleared of lying about her investigation.

Ryan “Luke” St. John, the boyfriend of Brayden’s mother, was arrested but never charged in November 2015 after Brayden, then 20 months old, was taken to Dayton Children’s Hospital with strangulation marks on his neck and bruising on his face and head, juvenile court records show.

Brayden was put under a safety plan by Dayton Children’s Services and placed temporarily with the mother’s great-aunt, but was later returned to the mother, Kelsie Martin, who was still in a relationship with St. John. On Feb. 13, 2017, St. John slammed Brayden’s head into a wall, causing injuries that led to his death. St. John was convicted of murder and sentenced last week to 18 years to life in prison.

Internal charges were brought against Dulaney after Brayden’s death, including that she provided false information on a report about whether she had followed up on the case. The prosecutor’s office said Dulaney didn’t respond to numerous requests for information on the 2015 case, which made prosecution difficult.

The lying charge, had she been found guilty, could have led to her termination. Instead, her handling of the investigation led Biehl to give her a five-day suspension in February, which she fulfilled by giving up a week of vacation pay.

Biehl has called Brayden’s death a tragedy and said the review will include “the actions of members of the Dayton Police Department and administration, as well as supervisory oversight for such cases.”

‘Our greatest asset’

Many of the Dayton police fired for lying were also found to have violated other policies, but the untruthfulness is what cost them their job.

Personnel records say Lawrence “Chip” Daly was found to have improperly used the law enforcement agency data system (LEADS) in May 2005 to look up information on a woman he knew — the program is only supposed to be used for law enforcement purposes — and to have been absent from work for more than an hour without leave.

These violations each led to a one-day suspension. But the investigation also found Daly lied about his use of the LEADS system to internal affairs, which led him to be fired on March 3, 2006.

Pete Willis, training coordinator for the the police academy at Sinclair Community College and a 25-year veteran of Dayton police, said the number of cases in Dayton, considering the size of the department, doesn’t seem high.

Lying cases must be treated seriously, he said, because they can call into question every arrest a cop makes.

“We stress this over and over (at the academy) that the public trust is your greatest asset, and when you lose that trust, if you’re deemed to be untrustworthy, you have virtually ended your career,” he said. “We carry a badge and we carry body armor, but our greatest asset is people’s faith in us. We don’t want to lose that.”