Norwood officer suspended for 30 days, no pay
He allegedly harassed ex-girlfriend on duty

BY WALT SCHAEFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NORWOOD — Police Officer Mark Rankin was suspended for 30 days without pay Monday for allegedly using city communications equipment to harass a former girlfriend while he was on duty.

The action is the latest in a series of unrelated disciplinary actions by the administration of Mayor Joe Hochbein that include a 60-day suspension imposed Dec. 7 on Police Chief Timothy Brown.

The chief was indicted last Monday by a Hamilton County grand jury on charges he lied about his involvement in an auto accident.

Safety Director Paul Bazzano said Mr. Rankin's suspension, which begins Jan. 4, was imposed following and internal investigation conducted by Norwood police into charges he was harassing Tonya Wallace of Norwood, by phone. The loss of salary to Mr. Rankin is $5,214.

“We have agreed to accept this settlement to put an end to the situation,” said Mr. Rankin's attorney, Donald E. Hardin. Mr. Rankin could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Bazzano said the internal investigation was ordered by the suspended police chief, who recommended the punishment. Mr. Bazzano said he “conducted a predisciplinary hearing ...” and the suspension was ordered “for conduct unbecoming a police officer and failure to obey lawful orders.”

Mr. Rankin, an eight-year member of the police department, was placed on administrative leave July 1, after the female acquaintance accused him of the harassment.

He returned to work about two weeks later after passing an evaluation to determine his fitness for duty, according to Timothy A. Garry Jr., the city law director.

Ms. Wallace filed a complaint with Norwood police in June alleging she had received harassing, obscene messages on her pager over several months.

Mr. Bazzano said: “The charges involve alleged calls to Ms. Wallace over her alphanumeric pager from various locations (and) at all times of the day and night ... on city time and on off-duty time.”

Mr. Bazzano said Mr. Rankin will reimburse the city $2,245 for “expenses incurred as a result of the internal investigation.” The amount represents computer related work and overtime to complete the investigation. He also must submit a letter of apology to the city, police division and public.

Mr. Garry said Mr. Rankin is scheduled to appear at a pretrial conference Jan. 7. before Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Robert Taylor on the misdemeanor harassment complaint.

Mayor Hochbein said the suspension reflects a policy of “establishing standards of performance, discipline and accountability in all city departments and this, although unpleasant, is a positive development.”

The mayor stressed the actions resulting in discipline “were done by individual officers and there certainly has been no cover-up and no situation that involves a lot of officers ... (While) they are serious acts, (the violators) acted alone. Norwood police did an excellent job of investigating both (Chief Brown and Officer Rankin) and should be commended for it.

“We are in a transition period while establishing these standards and (at times) there will be an airing out of dirty laundry. But, these cases are not systemic of the department ... but, involve individual officers who broke the rules and are being disciplined,” the mayor said.

Meanwhile, Chief Brown's attorney, W. Stewart Mathews II, said his client surrendered to Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies last week and has been released on his own recognizance pending trial.

Chief Brown, 46, who was suspended without pay by the mayor, was also indicted on three counts of tampering with evidence and two counts of tampering with records. He could receive up to 15 years in prison on the felonies.

He is accused of filing a false police report to cover up his role in a Dec. 5 accident involving his new Jeep Cherokee. Prosecutor Joseph Deters said the chief filed a phony police report shortly after he crashed the Jeep into a utility pole on Indian Mound Avenue in Pleasant Ridge.

Mayor Hochbein said the chief later admitted he lied about the accident and had been drinking.

The incidents are the latest in a series of alleged misconduct by employees in several city departments, ranging from fire and police officers to a water department clerk.



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