Lessons learned from the town that hired Tamir Rice’s killer Spotlight PA State College

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a A 5-month study by Spotlight PA It detailed how the government of Tioga, a small borough in northern Pennsylvania, nearly collapsed after hiring Timothy Roman, the police officer who murdered 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland in 2014.

According to reports, Roman’s recruitment and resulting nationwide repercussions have been simmering for a long time, fueled by hearsay, half-truths and accusations among elected officials in boroughs that have disrupted the government for months. It turns out to be just the latest episode of Infighting.

The three main points of our research are:

Pennsylvania Police Misconduct Database Flawed

In response to widespread protests against police brutality in 2020, Pennsylvania passed Act 57. It created a statewide database of employment records, including when law enforcement officers were reprimanded or fired for specific crimes.

The effort was defended by Attorney General Josh Shapiro. However, Roman’s hiring revealed him one of Act 57’s many limitations. The database does not flag problematic cops who have worked in other states than Pennsylvania.

June Spotlight PA Survey We have found that the database is hampered by other loopholes and a lack of enforcement mechanisms when municipalities do not comply with the law.

The day after the Tioga Borough announced that Roman had withdrawn his application to be a police officer in the town, Shapiro, now governor-elect, wrote a letter to then-Chairman of the Council Steve Haslett advocating Section 57 of the Act against Roman. Failure to check is a violation of state law.

“Law 57 was passed to prevent situations like the one that occurred in your Ward with the hiring of Timothy Lohmann and the subsequent withdrawal of his application,” the Democrat wrote.

However, according to records and interviews, Tioga did not break the law and Law 57 had nothing to do with Loehmann’s employment.

Spotlight PA shared its findings with Shapiro’s office, questioning the main points of his letter.

In response, Jacklin Rhoads, communications director for the Attorney General’s Office, said that while Law 57 was passed to “prevent this type of situation” that occurred at Tioga, it also prevented Tioga from hiring Loehmann, among other things. He said the bill was not passed in order to

Rhoads also declined to explain how exactly Tioga District broke the law, saying the state attorney general supported the letter’s statements.

Misinformation spread on Facebook

Much of the discord in Tioga played out on Facebook, where officials and residents argued, accused each other of manipulating, and often misunderstood each other. Claims, half-truths, and rumors spread easily, fueling even more local hostility.

This was especially true when residents accused certain council members of damaging the town’s reputation after news of Roman’s employment drew overwhelmingly negative attention to the borough.

The home addresses of councilman Haslett and his wives, then councilors Marybeth, Bob Wheeler and Doreen Burnside, were posted in comments on a post on the mayor’s official Facebook page, along with threats of violence. posted.

Small town government vulnerabilities

Relations soured before Loehmann’s hiring, with disputes among Tioga’s elected officials over the past two years over issues such as the mayor’s eligibility to serve and the handling of third-party audits of the borough’s finances. rice field.

Council member Alan Brooks told community members in July that Roman’s hiring did not go very well because “it became a personal battle over who was in charge.”

Residents of Tioga pointed to the damage the officials’ personal revenge had done to the town. Some residents who attended a parliamentary restructuring meeting in September said they were happy to see their new local leaders “getting along.”

Still, the survey raises the question of whether Pennsylvania’s more than 2,500 cities, towns, townships and boroughs best serve taxpayers.

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