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02-27-07, 11:27 AM #1
Council votes to fire police officer
Council votes to fire police officer
Country singer's arrest, MySpace site led to charges
By Steve Lannen
HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER
Lexington Urban County Council members voted early Wednesday morning to fire a police officer suspended for nearly a year due to charges connected to controversial postings on a Web site and his arrest of a well-known country music singer.
The eight-hour disciplinary hearing for Joshua Cromer, which began Tuesday evening, was part of a Lexington police department saga that began nearly a year ago with news of comments and photos by six police officers on MySpace.com, a social networking Web site.
Police officials disciplined the other five officers and returned them to duty. Yet they sought to fire Cromer, whose credibility and trustworthiness as a police officer had been compromised, they said.
They charged Cromer with unbecoming conduct, dishonesty and insubordination for acts including not only the Myspace.com comments, but also that he took a picture of John Michael Montgomery’s suspended driver’s license and shared it with other people and never logged audio recordings from Montgomery’s arrest into evidence.
Two officers testifying on Cromer’s behalf did say that it was common practice for many officers not to enter field recordings into evidence. Many just keep the recordings on their personal computers, they said.
Two officers testifying about seeing Montgomery’s suspended license as an image on Cromer’s cellular phone said it occurred at different restaurants. Cromer later testified he did not recall showing anyone a picture of the singer’s suspended license.
The charges also said Cromer did not report that he was called by someone at the Austin City Saloon warning that Montgomery was driving impaired or that Cromer was in the bar that evening.
Montgomery, of Jessamine County, was arrested after he left the Austin City Saloon early on Feb. 14, 2006. Montgomery eventually entered an Alford plea to a drunken-driving charge, which means he did not admit guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.
The urban county council also heard testimony about allegations unrelated to the high-profile incidents.
The council was unanimous in upholding the police department’s recommendation that Cromer be fired.
The council heard nearly six hours of testimony from police officers, starting with a long tour of Cromer’s Myspace.com Web site provided by an internal affairs officer.
Among several pictures, Lt. Ron Compton pointed to Cromer in uniform and in his police cruiser.
On Cromer’s page, officers discussed the arrest of Montgomery, a country music star. Cromer was the arresting officer in that case, and some of the postings congratulated him on the high-profile arrest.
One officer posted an altered photograph of Montgomery and a fan in which Cromer’s face had been placed on the head of the fan.
Other comments on the Web site made references to wanting to Taser an individual and have a former Lexington TV news videographer record it, and that he let an acquaintance off easy rather than arrest him for drunken driving.
Cromer said the MySpace Web site and the media coverage has “depicted a picture of me that’s not true. … That’s just not what I am, and I hope you guys realize that.”
Cromer was one of six officers disciplined by the police department for controversial comments posted on MySpace.
Some of the pages contained pictures of the Lexington police badge and cruiser, as well as the officers in uniform.
In a motion filed late last week, Cromer’s attorney argued that city officials missed their chance to hold the hearing and discipline Cromer because they did not have a hearing within 60 days of his suspension dating to March 29, 2006.
The city argued that Cromer was not officially charged until early December, and that it had 60 days from that date to have a hearing. Last night’s hearing was originally set within that 60 days, but both sides agreed to postpone it until last night.
Last night, Cromer’s attorney, Shane Sidebottom, also argued most of the charges should have been dismissed because they were brought by assistant chiefs, who did not testify last night.
He said several parts of the police officer’s bill of rights were violated.
“If this gets to the appeals court, I imagine you’ll see some state FOP organizations jumping in on his side on this, because it’s a big issue,” Sidebottom predicted before the hearing.
During testimony, police Chief Anthany Beatty called the situation an “embarrassment” for his department.
“It was certainly not exemplary of the kind of policing we want to do in this community. It certainly wasn’t exemplary of the kinds of employees I’d like to think we have there, those types of behaviors.
“It was embarrassing. We had to apologize to the public, not only to the people who were particularly offended, but to the public at large, so it has been an embarrassment for us, and it has caused problems for us in terms of public relations,” Beatty said.*************************"It wouldn't take much for me to up and run...to another life somewhere in the sun."*************************"There's something inherently wrong with having to put on a bullet-proof vest and a gun to go to work."-(An old friend)
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02-27-07, 11:49 AM #2
Seems like a ton of people have gotten into trouble for what they've done or said on Myspace. You really have to be careful on there...Calm Like A Bomb...
“A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
02-27-07, 12:13 PM #3GrasshopperVerified LEO
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This is a simple problem. Post nothing on your site about your department and your job. I do not see anything wrong with what this officer did (bad publicity is going to happen. The media is going to jump whoever makes an arrest like that), I do think that the officer opened himself up to the problem though. Ya got to be careful.And Shepards we shall be,
for thee, My Lord, for thee,
Power hath descended forth from Thy hand,
That our feet may swiftly carry out Thy Command.
So we shall flow a river forth to Thee
And teeming with souls will it ever be.
In Nomine Patris, Et Filli, Et Spiritus Sancti.
02-27-07, 12:27 PM #4
I don't agree with firing the guy, but this is what happens when you let your online persona become known. Too many people saying stuff they shouldn't. Just had a high ranking official from a major airline email us at another site I am a crew member on. He threatened with legal action due to posts made by a member revealing confidential business information about that particular airline.Alpha Phi Sigma Alum - Alpha Delta Chapter
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