Bellaire adds embattled Loehmann, Smith to police force
BELLAIRE — The village has hired Timothy Loehmann, a former Cleveland police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice four years ago, as one of two new part-time officers with its police department.
The other part-time officer is Eric Smith, Bethesda’s still-suspended police chief who remains under investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s office for allegedly misusing a statewide computer system for law enforcement.
Bellaire Police Chief Richard “Dick” Flanagan confirmed Friday that he hired Loehmann and Smith. He said he believes both men deserve second chances.
Loehmann killed Rice, 12, of Cleveland in November 2014. Published reports indicate he shot Rice less than 2 seconds after he arrived to investigate a complaint about the boy carrying what turned out to be a fake gun.
He was never indicted on any charges related to the shooting and was cleared by a Cuyahoga County grand jury and Cleveland’s Critical Incident Review Commission, according to published reports.
However, Loehmann was fired by the Cleveland Police Department in 2017 for allegedly omitting information from his employment application. He previously had worked for the police department in Independence, Ohio, and failed to note that on his application. Loehmann was told he either had to quit his job in Independence or be fired, officials said at that time.
Flanagan said Friday he had no reservations about hiring Loehmann to work in his department.
“He was cleared of any and all wrongdoing,” Flanagan said of Loehmann. “He was never charged. It’s over and done with.”
According to published reports, Independence Deputy Chief Jim Polak wrote in Loehmann’s personnel file that he was “weepy” and “distracted” during firearms training. He allegedly told Polak that he was having trouble with his girlfriend at the time. But the deputy went further in his statements about Loehmann’s competence.
“He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal,” Polak wrote in 2012.
Polak recommended that Loehmann should leave the department.
“I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct the deficiencies,” Polak wrote.
He also said Loehmann lacked “maturity” to continue working for the Independence department, published reports indicate.
In 2009, Loehmann also failed an exam administered by the Maple Heights, Ohio, police department. Published reports indicate he failed to disclose that in his application to Cleveland, too.
Flanagan said he never had reservations about hiring Loehmann because he was cleared of any wrongdoing regarding Rice’s death. He said he does not believe it is fair for people to “crucify” Loehmann about what happened.
“I have full confidence and faith in every police officer here,” Flanagan said. “We have eight full-time officers and five part-time officers. And if anyone is looking for a part-time job, call me. All officers are on a probationary period of one year.”
Regarding Smith, Flanagan acknowledged he has his doubts.
“No one wanted to hire this guy anywhere — even his best friend who is a chief up north,” Flanagan said of Smith. “He deserves to have a second chance.”
Smith has been accused of misusing the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway. Flanagan said Smith, who remains on paid administrative leave with Bethesda, will not be permitted to use computers in Bellaire.
“I had reservations about Eric Smith and I still do,” Flanagan said. “Everyone has got to prove themselves. I try to prove every day that I am capable of being the police chief. Everybody makes mistakes.
“Everyone I hired went through the background check and all come highly recommended — except for Eric Smith,” he said. “But people grow up and move on.”
Flanagan said that if either officer — or any Bellaire police officer — does something wrong in the line of duty, the department will handle the situation.
“If there is some wrongdoing or someone breaks a policy, there are procedures to deal with that accordingly,” he added.
Flanagan said his officers have a lot of experience even though they are young. Since taking over the chief’s position, Flanagan said the lines of communication have been open between officers and the public. That has led to more successful investigations and arrests, he said.
“We’ve had more crimes solved in the past eight months than we’ve had in the past 10 years,” Flanagan said.