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Bellaire Decision Not Putting Public First

We entrust our law enforcement leaders to always stand up for justice, to always do what is right when it comes to ensuring public safety — even if that means having to investigate police officers under their command who themselves are accused of breaking the law.

When that doesn’t happen, when an officer is accused of a misdeed and his chief is accused of condoning that action, it seriously erodes public confidence in the institution of law enforcement. Then it’s up to the elected officials — mayors and members of city councils — to step in and restore the public’s trust.

That’s why what’s going on in Bellaire with the status of Police Chief Richard Flanagan makes little sense. Flanagan is named as a co-defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing him of condoning the actions of village police officer Gene Grimm, who is alleged to have forced two different women to perform sexual acts on him in exchange for not getting arrested or having their children taken away.

The complaint alleges that in May 2019, Flanagan was made aware by one of the women of Grimm’s actions, and did not take steps to deal with Grimm. A second woman said Grimm did the same to her starting in February 2021.

Council met behind closed doors recently and learned that Mayor Vince DiFabrizio and solicitor Michael Shaheen met with Flanagan and determined he would stay in his position as chief. Shaheen told our reporter that he and DiFabrizio determined the allegations against Flanagan were not “heinous” like those against Grimm.

Seriously? If the allegations are true, Flanagan’s refusal to take action against Grimm is unacceptable. The village should have placed Flanagan on paid administrative leave until the matter is investigated.

As it stands now, any woman who believes she was wronged by a village officer would have little confidence that her voice would be heard.

The village did made the right call in seeking an outside investigation from the state of Ohio into whether Flanagan condoned Grimm’s alleged actions. But it made the wrong call in not taking the allegations against Flanagan seriously. That needs to be addressed.

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