The safety-service director says some officers are afraid he'll see something they don't want him to see.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
and AMANDA DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- City police officers say Safety-Service Director Fred Harris has not only interfered with them while they are working, but also attempted to discipline an officer after a disagreement.
Harris sent a letter to officer Wayne Mackey in August stating that Mackey faced a charge of dereliction of duty stemming from his actions at Korey Stringer's calling hours.
Mackey was providing security at Stringer's calling hours Aug. 5 at Harding High School field house. Stringer, a Harding graduate, died this summer while at the Minnesota Vikings training camp.
Charge was dismissed: The charge, however, was dismissed by Harris on Aug. 23.
"A family member had come up to me and told me not to let anyone else in," Mackey said. "A few minutes later a gentleman attempted to enter and I told him that the family had asked not to allow anyone else in. The man was very understanding.
"Mr. Harris then came up to me and told me it was OK. I explained to him that the family said it was closed, but Mr. Harris took the man in with him."
Mackey said he didn't try to stop Harris.
"I thought the whole thing was over but then Harris came back out, poked me in the back and signaled for me to come over by him," Mackey said. "I first shook my head no because I could tell he was upset, but then I went over.
"Mr. Harris said that the family wanted that man to attend and I told him that it was fine, and I walked away."
Mackey said a few minutes later Harris was poking him in the back again.
"He then asked me if I had a problem and I told him that I didn't think this was the place to discuss it and that he would have to stop poking me," Mackey said. "I didn't think anymore of it until Aug. 15 when I got a letter in the mail saying I was facing disciplinary charges."
Mackey, who has been with the department for 10 years, said he and members of the police union met with Harris a few days later and Harris told him he was dismissing the matter.
On Aug. 23, Mackey received a letter from Harris saying the charges were dismissed.
Harris declined to discuss the matter.
"I have a little more class than to do this kind of stuff in the newspaper," Harris said. "If I have a problem with someone I work with, I take it through the proper channels."
Shows up at arrests: Harris said some officers have a problem with him because he's shown up on the scene of arrests. Harris, who is not a police officer, also said he felt some officers have problems with him because he is black.
He maintains officers are afraid he'll see something they don't want him to see. He added there are a number of complaints that have been filed against some officers, especially from black residents.
Harris said officers are using the press to make him look bad.
Officers said that on Sept. 3, 2000, Harris showed up on the scene of a shooting, wouldn't obey officers' orders to stay behind crime scene tape and was hostile, screaming and using profanities.
Officers Chris O'Rourke and Sgt. Bill Boldin both said they had trouble with Harris in December when he showed up at traffic scenes.
Harris has administrative authority over the police and fire departments, among other city operations.
Police Chief John Mandopoulos has said he has no problem with Harris' going to the crime scenes but he has trouble with his interfering, because it becomes a safety issue when the officers are distracted.
Mayor Hank Angelo has said he sees no problem with Harris' actions.