By John W. Goodwin Jr.
The career of one city police officer ended with an FBI investigation into alleged corruption and the loss of his certification to remain a cop in Ohio.
Phil Chance Jr. had been on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the corruption investigation, but he resigned Friday from the Youngstown Police Department instead of facing firing and possible criminal prosecution.
Police Chief Rod Foley said Chance could have faced felony charges of theft in office but instead was permitted to resign and end the matter quickly.
“The biggest thing I wanted to accomplish is that he not be a peace officer in the state of Ohio. We just felt this was the best way of getting him out,” Foley said.
The YPD’s Internal Affairs Division in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation initiated a public-corruption probe involving Chance after the police department received citizen complaints of possible officer misconduct.
“There was a complaint that there was money taken from an individual out there in the street. ... There were investigative measures to establish the integrity of the officer, and obviously he failed,” the chief added.
Investigators placed items in a location and waited to see if Chance would take them, Foley said.
Chance was found to have misappropriated property while on duty Sept. 6. A search warrant was executed Sept. 7, where investigators found the item in question in Chance’s personal vehicle.
Chance initially said he inadvertently left the item in his car, but the chief said that explanation is not plausible because Chance was given 24 hours to come forward with the item before he was approached by investigators.
Foley said it was necessary to launch the undercover sting operation because some of the tips about Chance’s behavior came from individuals with questionable criminal records. But investigators took the complaints to be serious because those filing them were not asking for anything in return; they were simply informing police brass about Chance’s activities.
Lt. Brian Butler of internal affairs said it needs to be understood the department does not take complaints and issues of police corruption lightly.
“We progressively pursue these types of allegations and take a proactive approach to rooting out corruption,” he added.
Chance had previously signed an agreement with the department after a series of internal affairs investigations. The agreement said he would be fired for any additional serious violations of police department policies.
Chance signed the agreement in early April. It called for Chance to discontinue the use of a drug that could “negatively impact his ability to perform the essential functions of his job” and has not been approved by a city-selected medical review doctor.
Chance, who was suspended for 60 days in April, agreed to enter a substance-abuse treatment program while on suspension and present monthly attendance sheets to the chief documenting his regular attendance at those meetings.
He also agreed to reduce his use of medications that affect his job and take a drug-screening test before returning to work.
Chance’s father, Phil Chance Sr., served as Mahoning County sheriff from Jan. 7, 1997, until July 16, 1999. He, too, resigned amid allegations of impropriety.
The resignation came three days after a jury in Cleveland federal court found him guilty of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO conspiracy, obstruction of justice and two counts of extortion.
The elder Chance’s corruption case centered mostly on his 1996 election, when he sought the financial support of Lenny Strollo, Mahoning Valley mob boss at the time.
In November 1999, U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. O’Malley imposed a 71-month sentence on Chance Sr.
He appealed his conviction, and on Sept. 19, 2002, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the obstruction conviction and one extortion conviction, ruling the evidence did not support the verdicts. Reversal of the two counts didn’t affect the sentence, however.
Chance Sr. was released from prison in 2005.