Mayor backs James Kimble, says he did not violate policy or procedure
PUT-IN-BAY – An island village under fire for numerous claims of police misconduct is facing another claim, this time alleging its acting police chief assaulted a man.
Last September, Patrick McCann, the grandson of former mayor Bernard “Mac” McCann and son of current councilman Michael McCann, was involved in an altercation in which he said he was shoved by acting police chief James Kimble.
Kimble, whom Put-in-Bay Mayor Jessica Dress recommended to be named full-time police chief during a council meeting this month, vouched for Kimble, saying he has been a great addition to a department looking for structure.
“So our legal counselor reviewed the incident and paired with our policy in procedure and did not see where there was a violation of that policy or procedure,” Dress told the News Herald this week. “It’s that simple.”
Kimble declined to comment on the incident involving McCann as it remains under investigation, with Paul Dobson, Wood County prosecutor, in charge of the case. Dobson said the investigation remains ongoing.
Kimble, a former deputy with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, took over as acting police chief in July after former chief Steve Riddle was placed on paid leave following an incident last June when six Black men from Sandusky were arrested following a traffic stop.
That incident came under scrutiny after police used stun guns on some of the men after it was believed members of the group had drugs.
The six men were arrested and spent two days in the Ottawa County Jail before all charges were dropped and the men were released following a protest outside the jail alleging racial injustice.
A lawsuit filed by all six men is pending in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.
In a separate lawsuit, a Detroit woman is alleging that she was taken down to the ground by former police sergeant Michael Russo during an incident last May.
McCann’s complaint comes after the village was attempting to improve its image in the community following the two incidents and alleged racism and excessive use of force.
The Put-in-Bay Police Department has a history of recent issues alleging misconduct.
Dress said she appointed Kimble as chief at the behest of many veterans in law enforcement who hold Kimble in high regard.
And Dress said she has tasked Kimble with bringing higher standards of ethics that she believes is needed in the police department.
“When you police actively there are going to be things that happen from time to time, whether it’s a fender bender because you’re driving so often or, you know, nobody’s perfect … but in my opinion for that to be the only thing, I think speaks volumes about James Kimble’s ability to be a police officer,” Dress said.
McCann was seen in body camera video provided to the News Herald through a public records request being asked to stay back as a man was being placed in handcuffs for being “unruly,” according to a statement made by Dress.
McCann told the News Herald that Kimble, who was in civilian clothing at the time, got into his face and shoved him while he was looking on.
The video shows Kimble clearly announcing himself as the police chief prior to the altercation with McCann, though McCann said he did not know who Kimble was or remember hearing Kimble state that he was the chief.
Kimble walked McCann back several feet saying “take a walk” as McCann backed up along the sidewalk.
Though the incident happened in September, it was not until Nov. 12 that McCann filed a complaint to the village regarding the acting chief’s behavior.
“I had called the police after being assaulted and then ended up being thrown to the ground by the police for being a bystander. I believe that this was wrong and that I should have at the least been issued a public apology,” McCann said.
But McCann did not receive an apology and told the News Herald that he does not believe the village took his complaint seriously.
“I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. It could be dangerous to both the people of Put-in-Bay as well as the reputation of Put-in-Bay if this kind of behavior continues,” McCann said.
In response to McCann’s complaint, Dress said in a Jan. 29 letter that the investigation was complete.
“As a result of that investigation, I do not find that discipline is warranted. As reflected in the body camera footage, I note that you identified yourself as the chief of police to Mr. McCann and instructed him to back up on three occasions, but Mr. McCann failed to comply,” Dress said in the letter.
The mayor did write that she was concerned McCann was not identified by officers as a victim at the scene or in a police report.
McCann initially reported he and his uncle were assaulted on Delware Avenue, the main location for bars and restaurants in Put-in-Bay, according to a report.
Dress said in her letter to Kimble that he should review protocols in place by the department as it pertains to victim identification.
In McCann’s complaint, he said he called police to report an incident at the Round House Bar patio area when he was assaulted prior to police arriving.
“The man who assaulted me began to run away from the police and they tackled him on the street,” McCann wrote in his complaint. “I then walked on the sidewalk of Delaware Avenue to see if the police had gotten the man that assaulted me to talk to the police about the incident.”
Body camera video shows a man being placed in handcuffs but he was not identified as the person who assaulted McCann. Put-in-Bay officials told the News Herald this week that court records regarding the case were sealed at the request of the defendant.
It was then that McCann described a large, bald man who walked up to him and started “yelling at me to back up.”
McCann said he did not know who the person was, the complaint said.
In the complaint, McCann said he put his hands in the air and began slowly walking backward while Kimble was yelling at him. McCann then said he had backed up and was being pushed by Kimble.
“I ended up falling into a clothes rack that was on the sidewalk,” McCann wrote. “I stayed on the ground for several seconds because I did not know who this man was and I was also waiting for one of the on-duty police officers to help.”
Later, McCann said he found out who the man was and identified him as Kimble.
“He did not have a visible badge, and I could not hear him well over the noise of the arrest going on,” McCann said.
Whether Kimble identified himself or not, McCann said the physical contact the acting chief made with him was “completely unnecessary.”
During a March council meeting, Dress asked council members to vote on naming Kimble full-time police but said that vote did not happen as council tabled the vote, asking for a third-party background check on Kimble, the second background check performed on the acting chief.
Dress said council has scrutinized how hiring practices were executed in the past and said council wanted to “put their money where their mouth is” and be more dedicated to hiring the best candidates for jobs from the top down.
Though Kimble falls just short of a year’s service, Dress believes he has brought structure to a job that has not seen much in recent memory.
Kimble took over for Steve Riddle, who was placed on paid administrative leave last June following the June 6 arrest of the six Black men from Sandusky. The former chief’s saga come to an end after he and the village worked out an agreement that he would retire at the end of the calendar year in 2020 and be paid $36,000 for an additional six months into 2021.
Coming in to the department in the summer, its busiest season, Dress said Kimble spent much of his time putting out a lot of “fires” as he was thrust into a position as a Black man taking over a department that just had incidents involving Black men and women who claimed they were mistreated because of the color of their skin.
“By the end of the summer he had started to kind of re-establish the culture within the police department to be one of respect and diligence,” Dress said. “I think he’s done an excellent job. It’s a job unlike anything else.”
The department has come under scrutiny several times over the years as it has seen issues with excessive force, mistreatment of island staff and chaos within the department.
If Kimble is named the next full-time police chief, he would be the fourth top cop in Put-in-Bay since Ric Lampela was fired in August 2015.
Lampela was terminated from his position by council after he was alleged to have waved a gun around in a threatening manner when questioning an officer about the Second Amendment, not keeping police department’s holding cell properly inspected per state regulations from 2011 through 2014, allowing 13 official police badges to go missing and not turning in both of his badges when asked to do so by the mayor.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office reviewed the department and found a lack of adequate training .
In September 2013, three Put-in-Bay Resort employees were arrested on obstruction of justice and additional charges when police responded to a report that one person was put into a headlock and golf carts were towed from employee dorms.
Police reported two of the three did not cooperate in the investigation but charges were dismissed against the three resort staffers.
Former officer Steve Korossy was charged in 2015 with 14 felony counts, including misuse of the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway between 2013 and 2015 and making false statements to investigators.
Korossy’s conviction was ultimately overturned in 2017 by Ohio’s Sixth District Court of Appeals in Toledo.
Kimble said past issues at Put-in-Bay are well known by everyone, including himself. But that is not keeping him from wanting to instill a better culture moving forward.
A veteran officer, Kimble as worked as a sergeant of Wood County Sheriff’s Office, been an instructor for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, worked as a task force officer for the U.S. Marshals and has worked as court security officer, bringing a wide range of experience over the past 30-plus years.
“What we’re trying to do is regain that trust with the people so that when they come to the island they feel safe,” Kimble said. “This has been a rebuilding process for the police department but I’ve enjoyed the challenge.”
Kimble said training is scheduled for Put-in-Bay officers as they prepare for a busy summer.
Dress said new staff will be paired with veteran officers as they learn the ropes of being a police officer in a small island village that typically draws 750,000 visitors between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Dress said the encounter between Kimble and McCann was an “unfortunate” incident but it was not a clear-cut issue in which snap decision could be made.
“It just wasn’t a simple situation,” Dress said.
There is no current timeline regarding Dobson’s investigation into the incident.