Three years ago, Warren Police Chief Tim Bowers had the opportunity to teach police Sgt. Emanuel Nites, who stole time from the taxpayers, a lesson he would never forget. Instead, Bowers concluded that Nites’ skipping work on 14 dates warranted a three-month suspension without pay and benefits, instead of demotion to patrolman. Such a drop in rank would have resulted in a $3.35 an hour reduction in wages.
Bowers was acting police chief when he initially announced that Nites was being demoted and also suspended for 10 days without pay.
But then Bowers became chief — and Nites got a break. He was allowed to sign an agreement giving him back his rank of sergeant in exchange for the three-month suspension.
As we said at the time, “It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that this rogue cop is being pampered, rather than punished.”
Fast forward to the present. Chief Bowers has suspended Sgt. Nites for one day for attending a get-together at a fellow officer’s house on Aug. 27 while on duty.
But that isn’t the worst of it. An internal affairs officer, Lt. Dan Mason, says that Nites lied when questioned about the get-together. He faces possible additional discipline on this allegation.
And here’s the kicker: The one-day suspension was handed down despite a “Last Chance Agreement” Nites signed in 2009 that said he could be fired at the discretion of the city with limited appeal rights if he had any serious employment violations within the next two years. The agreement expired in September 2011.
Did the police sergeant correctly conclude that pursuing extracurricular activities on taxpayers’ time — again — would result in punishment no more serious than a suspension?
A memo from Lt. Mason, the internal affairs officer, notes that Nites initially said that for an unspecified period of time between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 27, he stopped at a fellow officer’s house to eat during a fantasy football draft. The fellow officer was off duty.
But another officer who was at the get-together claimed that Nites had participated in the fantasy football draft — which Nites denied doing.
The sergeant claimed that he has “never done a fantasy football. I don’t know how to do it. I stopped there, I ate.”
But Mason has determined that Nites does have a fantasy football team in the league.
In light of this information, police Chief Bowers cannot ignore departmental policy that requires an officer, while giving a statement, to be “truthful at all times, whether under oath or not, when conducting any official police business.”
Nites’ work history is relevant to the current case because it shows a pattern of behavior that demands firm action by the department.
In 2009, he either showed up late for work or left work early to coach his son’s basketball team or watch his daughter’s high school basketball team. He missed 22 hours of work for which he collected $831 in pay. He repaid the money.
Three of Nites’ supervisors also were disciplined in the time-card matter for falsifying time sheets for Nites.
Mason, of internal affairs, was among those supervisors.
The one-time suspension handed down to Nites is worse than merely a slap on the wrist. It’s an invitation to the sergeant to continue gaming the system.
Mayor Doug Franklin and his safety-service director, Enzo Cantalamessa, need to have a heart-to-heart with Chief Bowers.