A police chief in Ohio has been charged with covering up horrible crimes. Robert Lampela, 53, also known as “Ric,” according to the News Herald, works for the Put-In-Bay, OH, police department, located on South Bass Island.
Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office announced the state was pressing charges against Chief Lampela Friday during a press conference, according to the Sandusky Register. The charges come as part of a six-month investigation into the department.
The charges against the police chief include one count each of aggravated menacing and dereliction of duty. Both charges are the result of incidents that allegedly happened in 2012 and 2003 respectively, according to the News Herald.
Lampela allegedly covered up allegations of a rape committed in the South Bass Island police employee dorms to “prevent negative publicity” in 2003, according to the News Herald. He allegedly ignored the alleged rape and report by refusing to allow the victim, a police cadet, to file a police report against her attackers, two fellow officers, the report said.
During the six-month investigation into the charges, Lampela allegedly lied to investigators, and insisted that no one tried to report the rape. However, as the initials of both people are in the report, investigators knew he was lying to them. This resulted in another charge – two counts of falsification – against him; one count falsification for each of the two people he said did not report the alleged rape.
A special prosecutor for the attorney general’s office, Margaret Tamaro, said in her report on the matter that, “unprofessional conduct is not a crime,” which is one reason no other officers were charged.
Tamaro also wrote in her report that, “Put-in-Bay police officers’ actions fell far short of what was expected.”
The police chief was charged with the aggravated menacing count as the result of a boisterous conversation in 2012, according to the News Herald. While talking with fellow officer Jeff Herald, Lampela allegedly brandished his weapon, which worried a third officer so much that he “prepared to draw his gun” by unstrapping the holster.
Sheriff Steve Levorchick from the Ottawa County’s Sheriff’s office heads up the investigation, which started in August 2014, and the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCII), part of the attorney general’s office, provided resources and support.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, in September 2014, Sheriff Levorchick started investigating the entire Put-In-Bay Police Department after receiving numerous complaints from South Bass Island inhabitants.
Chief among the complaints against the Put-In-Bay police department, and against Chief Lampela specifically, were numerous allegations made of “unlawful arrests and heavy-handed tactics” that the police used against citizens, according to the Ashland Times Gazette.
Put-In-Bay business owner Mark Mathys said the Put-In-Bay Police targets his business and employees “unfairly,” and cited the September, 2013, arrest of three of his employees as an example, according to News Herald.
Although the arrests resulted in dropped charges for one employee and the acquittal of the other two during jury trials, Mathys called the arrests a “‘wholly unjustified’ violation of civil rights.”
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Police Chief Lampela said during a September, 2014, interview that he “welcomed the probe,” into the department because he didn’t think any of his officers would be charged with anything.
The Sheriff’s office had other plans, though, and charged the police chief himself with the three crimes.
Even though the crimes are only misdemeanors, the serious nature of the charges and the fact that a police chief is charged with the crimes “usually results in a suspension,” according to Councilman Jeff Koehler via the News Herald.
The investigation is ongoing, according to Dan Tierney, spokesperson for the AG’s Office. While the AG does not expect to charge other officers with a crime, or in connection with Lampela’s alleged crimes, the AG’s Office refuses to release the investigation reports, citing the “ongoing investigation clause,” according to the Sandusky Register.
Police Chief Lampela is expected at Ottawa County Municipal Court on March 25. If he is found guilty of all charges, he could face up to 21 months in jail.
[Photo via Put-In-Bay Police, News Herald]