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File charges against jailers who abused their authority



Published: Sun, February 16, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Trumbull County certainly has its problems.

There's an on-going investigation into the purchase of hundreds of thousands of dollars in janitorial supplies over the years without seeking competitive bids and with nonexistent inventory controls.

There's a budget crisis, which has the potential of evolving into a manpower crisis as employees are laid off in an attempt to balance the budget.

Given all that, we wouldn't be surprised if the prosecutor's office and sheriff's department were eager to put the county's latest scandal -- jailers accused of accepting sexual favors from female inmates -- behind them as quickly and painlessly as possible. They'd do that by accepting the resignations of the accused jailers and declaring the cases closed.

We would urge them to go further. We would urge them to file criminal charges.

There are two reasons that we feel strongly about this.

For one thing, it is the right thing to do. If these men used their positions of authority to coerce inmates into performing sexual acts, they have not only violated the women, they have violated the public trust. Such men belong behind bars.

But there is another reason. Two of the men have resigned, but in so doing they have not acknowledged guilt. An investigation continues in the third case.

Learning from experience

If there is one thing we have learned over the years, it is to never assume that a former public employee can't find a lawyer willing to fight for his reinstatement -- and more particularly can't find an arbiter willing to order his reinstatement, even against all seeming logic.

No sheriff and no prosecutor should assume that they have gotten rid of a rotten apple until they have a criminal conviction in their hand (and on rare occasions, even that hasn't been enough) or at least have a signed plea agreement in which the officer acknowledges guilt and agrees never to seek reinstatement.

We've seen cases involving police officers in which they clearly violated the law and seemingly waived any right to appeal, only to have the case end up back in arbitration. And once it gets there, in almost every case, the arbiter looks for a compromise -- which translates into reinstatement and, at best, a suspension.

If the accusations against these men are credible -- and there appears to be reason to believe so -- county officials dare not be gun-shy about prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law.




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