Friday, September 24, 1999

Police chief says alcohol eased job stress

Conviction is misdemeanor in stolen-car ruse

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Norwood Police Chief Timothy Brown says he turned to alcohol last year because he couldn't handle the stress of trying to improve his department.

        The more he worried about his department's reputation, he says, the more damage he did to his own.

        “I drank out of frustration with my job,” Mr. Brown said Thursday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. “I am embarrassed on a daily basis for what I did.”

        Minutes later, a judge added to Mr. Brown's embarrassment with a 12-day jail sentence for misdemeanor charges of falsification.

        The charges stem from a Dec. 5 accident involving Mr. Brown's Jeep.

        Prosecutors say Mr. Brown, 46, drank too much at a Christmas party and drove the Jeep into a utility pole on his way home.

        Later that morning, he told his boss and his fellow officers that someone had stolen the Jeep from his driveway.

Theft investigated
        He claimed he located the vehicle himself when he went for a walk in search of the missing car.

        The police department then launched an investigation into the theft of the Jeep.

        Within days, however, his supervisor confronted him and Mr. Brown told him the truth.

        “I said a bunch of stupid stuff,” Mr. Brown testified at his trial in July. “I was wrong for what I did.”

        Although prosecutors sought a conviction for felony charges, Judge Norbert Nadel found him guilty of the less serious offense of falsification.

        At the sentencing Thursday, the judge scolded Mr. Brown for failing to set a good example for his fellow officers and for the public.

        “If we don't follow what we preach, then the whole system is gone,” the judge said. “It's a joke.”

Sentence: 12 days
        The judge could have sentenced Mr. Brown to two years in jail but instead told him he must spend four consecutive weekends at the Justice Center, for a total of 12 days.

        Mr. Brown's attorney, Stewart Mathews, said he was pleased with the decision. The next step, he said, is determining whether Mr. Brown keeps his job.

        “This sentence is not a slap on the wrist,” Mr. Mathews said. “He's not any different than anybody else. Had he been a civilian, he never would have done a day in jail.”

        Norwood Mayor Joseph Hochbein said he would decide within two weeks whether to keep Mr. Brown as chief, demote him or fire him. He scheduled an announcement for Oct. 8.

        Under Ohio law, Mr. Brown could continue as a police officer with a misdemeanor conviction.

        A felony conviction would have cost him his job and pension.


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