Poland hires fired Youngstown officer
POLAND — Poland Village Police Department’s newest officer was supposed to serve as a school resource officer but instead will remain as a patrolman after the public raised concerns over an ongoing legal battle surrounding the new hire.
The village swore in Brian Flynn on Tuesday, but soon had to reconsider placing him in the schools.
Flynn is a former Youngstown Police Department lieutenant. He recently faced multiple misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty, accused of failing to assign cases of sex crimes involving children.
After the matter drew some outcry from the public, village Chief Don Lambert said Flynn will go through the department’s patrol training program and he will continue to seek a new school resource officer or may assign current officers to rotating shifts.
Poland Schools Superintendent Dr. Craig Hockenberry said the district was unaware of Flynn’s background until Tuesday.
“The district didn’t find out until yesterday after he was sworn in,” Hockenberry said. “We don’t hire law enforcement at all. We contract with Poland Township and Poland village police departments, and they hire the officers and place them in the schools.”
The district has five school resource officers, appointed by jurisdiction. Three Poland Township officers serve Poland Seminary High School and Dobbins Elementary, as well as Holy Family School, while two Poland Village officers serve Poland Middle School and McKinley Elementary.
FIRED IN YOUNGSTOWN
Flynn was fired from YPD in December after the department completed an internal affairs investigation that led the city to charge him with 14 misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty. The department found that Flynn failed to assign a detective roughly two dozen referrals from the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force involving alleged child abuse and child pornography cases.
Flynn at the time was head of the police department division known as the Family Investigative Services Unit, now called the Special Victims Unit.
In June, visiting Judge Scott Frost dismissed those counts because he said the Youngstown Law Department failed to prove that it did not use statements made by Flynn during the internal affairs investigation as evidence in the case.
By Ohio law, those statements are considered inadmissible because they were given under duress.
The law department has alleged that Frost is mistaken, and has refiled the charges. Law Director Jeff Limbian said the city’s attorneys filed the case solely on the testimony and evidence provided by Summit County Sheriff’s Office investigator Brian Breeden, who led the internal affairs investigation at the city’s request. Limbian said only allowable evidence was used to prosecute Flynn.
Lambert said the department has been seeking a new officer to serve as SRO since May, but only received three applications, including one from a person with no law enforcement qualifications. He said Flynn was hired because he was a school resource officer for Youngstown before his promotion to lieutenant.
He said he understood that the charges against Flynn had been dismissed but was unaware until Wednesday that the city was challenging Frost’s ruling. Lambert said Flynn has been honest and answered all of the questions the department posed during hiring.
“He’s been completely forthright with us the entire time, and told us his side of the story,” Lambert said. He said that since the charges were dismissed, Flynn has nothing on his record that would disqualify him from serving as a police officer.
“I spoke to several high-ranking officers in Youngstown, and they all told me that he is one of the finest officers that worked there and they were very surprised that this situation had gone as far as it did,” Lambert added.
Lambert said that if the city’s appeal of Frost’s ruling is successful and the charges against Flynn are reintroduced, the department will evaluate his status as the case proceeds.
Hockenberry said Wednesday he knows the board of education will “want answers” and he plans to meet with Poland village police Chief Donald Lambert and Mayor Tim Sicafuse to further discuss the appointment.
“We have the right to determine who works with our kids and in our schools, so we are going to look into it and talk about it,” he said. “I’m sure it’s going to work out best for everybody because we won’t have it any other way. Our job is to find the right fit with the kids and I know the village police will help us get there.”
Flynn’s hiring and appointment came less than a week after disgraced ex-Austintown trustee and Poland Township police officer Steve Kent was sentenced to a year in prison on one felony count of tampering with evidence. A jury found Kent guilty in August and he was sentenced on Sept. 20.
Kent performed a factory reset on his phone one day after a Poland parent notified him that she was aware of allegations made by a student that Kent had forced the girl into a sex act on at least three occasions while he was the school resource officer at Poland Seminary High School in 2021. Kent was charged with three counts of sexual battery but the jury acquitted him on those charges.