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West Chester official: Police changes coming after complaints against chief

West Chester Twp. resident Yasmen Brown-Jones was the only person to address the trustees during their meeting on Tuesday, July 14, regarding the turmoil surrounding complaints against Police Chief Joel Herzog. She showed her support for the chief during the first meeting the trustees have held since the issue arose.
West Chester Twp. resident Yasmen Brown-Jones was the only person to address the trustees during their meeting on Tuesday, July 14, regarding the turmoil surrounding complaints against Police Chief Joel Herzog. She showed her support for the chief during the first meeting the trustees have held since the issue arose.

West Chester Twp. officials and some others have voiced their support for Police Chief Joel Herzog but say changes are needed and will be made in the department following allegations made against the chief.

In the wake of complaints by two captains and four police officers that Herzog’s behavior has been unacceptable, officials were expecting a crowd at their regular business meeting Tuesday evening. The audience was sparse with less than a dozen people attending, and only one resident commented.

Yasmen Brown-Jones asked the trustees to “understand and know the man, not the comments.”

“He has supported me, my three young, Black, male children above and beyond. He is supporting this community by trying, trying to be become a better chief of police, that’s all we can ask for,” Brown-Jones said. “I don’t know if there is any person in this room, in this township, on earth who can say they’ve never done something or said something they shouldn’t have.”

Former Capt. Jamie Hensley resigned June 23 after he and Capt. Joe Gutman filed a formal complaint, via their attorney, against Herzog. They accused him of making sexist and racial remarks, favoritism and retaliation in their February complaint. The township hired a third-party investigator to look into the charges. That report was recently released and no disciplinary action was recommended but a performance improvement plan was.

RELATED: More complaints of inappropriate behavior lodged against West Chester police chief

Several outside groups, like the NAACP Hamilton/Fairfield/West Chester and Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) Cincinnati have issued statements saying Herzog should be fired.

“We feel that Chief Joel Herzog should not be placed on a performance plan. None of the other chiefs in other jurisdictions have been given that option and neither should Chief Joel Herzog,” Michael Reeves, president of the local NAACP chapter said.

“… This needs to be investigated on the federal level so the truth can come out without bias. The result being that Chief Joel Herzog be terminated or allowed to resign.”

Brown-Jones implored the trustees not to replace Herzog.

“If you’re looking for someone shiny, never made a mistake I hope you don’t bring them here,” she said. “I’d rather be working with a real person, someone who is trying to move the needle. So as you consider our chief of police consider the whole picture.”

The township recently released complaints from four other officers and they are investigating the allegations. Officer Michael Lopez recounted an incident with Herzog when he was about to give him recognition in front of eight to 10 fellow officers.

“He announces ‘Is this for the white Mike or the brown Mike? Oh, this is for the brown Mike’ and gives me the letter,” Lopez wrote. “Everyone in the room looked at me, probably in shock of what was just said by our leader.

Union President Sgt. Paul Lovell issued a statement saying the new allegations call for “ a full and fair investigation, without retaliation. This Lodge will always stand behind our members and their right to speak out on matters which undermine the professionalism and integrity of this department.”

Trustee Board President Ann Becker assured the public Tuesday the department is taking care of business, with no disruption in service, despite the controversy.

“We’ll deal with this issue in a very deliberate and thoughtful way,” she said. “As we move forward we will take a serious decision. We do need to make some changes and changes will come.”

Trustee Mark Welch told the Journal-News the third-party investigator, attorney Doug Duckett, suggested performance improvement plans for both Herzog and Gutman, who is still employed at the department, and those records will be released in the future. The chief has “embraced” the recommendations, he said.

“Joel says I want to be a better person. Joel is introspective and he sees that he has made mistakes, nobody is perfect and he is willing to work to be that better person,” Welch said. “This performance improvement plan is I think just what the doctor ordered. Hopefully Gutman has the same attitude and is interested in making improvements.”

Trustee Lee Wong said “nobody is perfect” and Herzog has shown “tremendous professionalism” in his career.

“In my opinion Chief Herzog has done a wonderful job in this community,” Wong said. “He cares about us, he cares about his community, he lives here, he has tremendous stake in this community for a long time.”