Warren cop to have hearing

An internal investigation concluded the officer took unnecessary action during
a traffic stop.



WARREN — Patrolman Rich Kovach will answer to five charges before Police Chief John Mandopoulos in a disciplinary hearing today:

UViolation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

U Violation of the canons of police ethics.

U Violation of the code of professional conduct and personal bearings.

U Failure to protect prisoners, their rights and their properties.

U Failure to follow Warren police policy regarding mobile video recording.

These follow an internal investigation that was a result of a complaint filed by Timothy Brown II, of Dunstan Drive, against Kovach, who has been a Warren patrolman for 12 years.

Brown said in his complaint that a police officer pulled him over Aug. 23 on U.S. Route 422. He said he was surrounded by five police vehicles and 10 police officers with their weapons drawn.

Earlier that day, police were on the lookout for Brown’s brother, Steve Brown, who was charged with aggravated murder in the Aug. 21 shooting death of Johnny Williamson, 24, on North Park Avenue.

Steve and Tim are sons of Warren police officer Timothy Brown.

In his defense, Kovach wrote that he was told to be on the lookout for Brown’s son, that he may be armed, and that he had a white female with him driving a Cadillac headed for Pennsylvania.

He said he saw one of Brown’s sons at USA Gas Mart near the Warren police station — but he wasn’t sure which son. “I thought maybe he was getting gas to go to Pennsylvania,” he said.

Kovach followed the vehicle from the gas station to the police station, where the actual traffic stop occurred.

“Believing that I had a possible murder suspect in the car, I got out of my cruiser and conducted a felony stop. I advised the driver to turn off the car and throw the keys out the window. After the keys were thrown out, I asked him to get out of the car with his hands in the air,” Kovach wrote.

When Brown got out of the car he was told to lie on his stomach. Kovach stepped on his back then removed his wallet from his back pocket, Kovach and Brown both reported.

After Brown told Kovach that he was Tim and not Steve, Kovach said he wanted to make sure his brother, the suspect, was not in the car. Tim Brown gave Kovach permission to search the car, according to the officer.

Brown gave a conflicting report, saying Kovach did not have permission to search the car.

“They continued to treat me like a criminal and searched my car despite my denying them permission to search the car,” Brown wrote in his complaint filed Aug. 31.

Internal affairs investigator Sgt. Jeff Cole wrote in his report that he believed that after Kovach knew the identity of the person he stopped, he should have let him go and not pursued to search the vehicle.

“There was no reason for him to request permission to search the vehicle,” he said. “No crime had been committed by him.”

Cole also concluded that “there is nothing to support Patrolman Kovach’s claim that his mobile video recorder was malfunctioning at the time.” Cole said the only audible conversation that can be heard is when Kovach is in the cruiser. He said the microphone was not activated and the conversation between Brown and Kovach cannot be heard. Cole said the microphone was working earlier and no work order for repair was submitted.

Kovach is also under investigation for the Sept. 2 jolting of a Howland woman. Heidi Gill, 38, was Tasered several times outside Up A Creek Tavern on East Market Street. She was escorted out of the bar during a disturbance.

A videotape shows Kovach jolting the screaming woman with a Taser before and after she was handcuffed. She can also be seen trying to kick out the rear window of the police car.

Gill was knocked unconscious after she fell to the pavement. Kovach is on paid administrative leave until the Gill investigation is complete. This case has made national headlines in the past two months.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the Taser case, along with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. There is also an internal investigation being done on that case.

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