Bellaire chief gives his support

T-L Photo/MIRANDA SEBROSKI Police cruiser are parked Monday outside the Bellaire Police Department. Chief Richard “Dick” Flanagan said Monday that former Cleveland Police Department officer Timothy Loehmann will have to undergo 16 hours of training before he can patrol the streets of Bellaire. Meanwhile, Eric Smith, the chief for Bethesda’s police department who is suspended and under investigation there, no longer works as a part-time officer for Bellaire.

BELLAIRE — The former Cleveland police officer who shot and killed a 12-year-old four years ago will have to undergo 16 hours of training before he can patrol the streets of Bellaire.

Meanwhile, Bellaire Police Department Chief Richard “Dick” Flanagan also said Monday that Eric Smith, the suspended police chief of the Bethesda Police Department, is no longer with Bellaire.

Flanagan called a press conference Monday morning to discuss the former Cleveland officer — Timothy Loehmann — and Smith. He said during the meeting that he continues to support his decision to hire Loehmann.

“This was six years ago when he was an officer up there,” Flanagan said. “You guys know you’re not the same person you were six hours ago let alone six years ago. I don’t think other departments wanted the notoriety or publicity this came with. I believe in giving everyone a second chance.”

The chief also said Loehmann has begun doing some work for the village, but he cannot do certain police duties until he has taken the “refresher” course.

“He has rode around in the car,” Flanagan said. “He is learning our system, our computer, our filing system, the way we do reports just like any other person that you would hire. He’s rode alone, but has not arrested anyone or posed himself as a police officer. We cannot do nothing with him until his certificate gets updated.”

Loehmann killed Tamir Rice when he was a relatively new officer with the Cleveland Police Department in 2014. A Cuyahoga County grand jury did not indict him for the shooting. However, Cleveland eventually fired Loehmann anyway because he had omitted information from his employment application.

Before joining Cleveland, Loehmann was forced to resign as an officer with the police department in Independence, Ohio, where his supervisor said he was not fit to be an officer. He also failed an entrance exam when he applied to be an officer for the department in Maple Heights, Ohio. Loehmann did not include either of those events in his application with Cleveland, officials have said.

Loehmann is fighting his termination in Cleveland. Flanagan addressed those issues during the Monday press conference.

“I got to talk to someone else and there was a discrepancy that when he went and applied at Maple Heights Police Department he had failed an exam,” he said. “When he went to Cleveland, I don’t know if it was an oversight on his part that he didn’t report that or that it was a typo or something, but Cleveland Police Department ended up following up on that. As far as what is going on in Cleveland, I can’t comment on anything about litigation or arbitration.”

After the meeting, Flanagan declined to comment further about Loehmann.

Flanagan said during a phone interview Monday that Smith’s last day with the Bellaire department was Oct. 1. He declined to comment further about Smith.

When contacted Friday about Smith and Loehmann, Flanagan said Smith was still with the department. He said he had come to the conclusion that the department should part ways with Smith after discussing the issue with the Belmont County Prosecutor’s Office.

Smith was suspended with pay from Bethesda during the spring and, according to officials there, is still a member of the police department.

Among several allegations regarding his conduct in Bethesda, Smith is accused of misusing a statewide computer system for law enforcement. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is investigating those allegations.

Meanwhile, the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department took to social media on Sunday to ask residents to refrain from calling the county dispatch center to express concern about Loehmann’s hiring. The department reminded the public that dispatchers cannot answer questions regarding Loehmann and recommended that people use other options to voice their concerns.

“Regarding the officer who was recently hired in Bellaire (Timothy Loehmann), please DO NOT call the Belmont County 9-1-1 Center, using Bellaire’s 7-digit number (676-3322), or any other number, to express your opinion, displeasure, or ask for information,” the sheriff’s department wrote on its Facebook page. “The dispatchers there have no information, have nothing to do with the situation, nor do they care about your opinion on the matter.”

The post noted that dispatchers had answered 150-200 non-emergency calls on the matter in a single day.

“This is taking them away from handling ACTUAL emergency calls throughout the county,” the sheriff’s department added.

Staff members at the dispatch center declined to comment on the matter Monday.