Former Cleveland cop will not take job in Bellaire

BELLAIRE — Police Chief Richard “Dick” Flanagan said he believes Timothy Loehmann made the right decision when he withdrew his application for employment with the Bellaire Police Department.

Loehmann, a former Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, had been hired as a part-time Bellaire officer, Flanagan confirmed last week. A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict Loehmann in the shooting death, but the Cleveland Police Department later fired Loehmann because he allegedly had omitted information from his employment application.

Loehmann previously had worked for the police department in Independence, Ohio, where his supervisor said he was not fit to be an officer. He was forced to resign that position. He also failed an entrance exam when he applied to be an officer for the department in Maple Heights, Ohio. Cleveland police officials said Loehmann did not include either of those events in his application for employment there. Loehmann is contesting his termination in Cleveland.

Flanagan has said he had no reservations about hiring Loehmann. Many residents of Bellaire and surrounding communities, however, felt differently, using terms such as “mind-blowing” and “ridiculous” to describe the decision to employ Loehmann. In addition to speaking out against the choice on social media and in newspaper interviews, some local residents organized an effort to encourage attendance at 6 p.m. Thursday during the Bellaire Village Council meeting to speak out against it.

On Wednesday, though, Flanagan confirmed that Loehmann would not be a Bellaire police officer.

“Yes, Mr. Loehmann withdrew his application,” Flanagan said. “He told me he wants to spend more time on his legal situation in Cleveland.”

Flanagan initially said he hired Loehmann — and suspended Bethesda police Chief Eric Smith — because he believes everyone deserves a second chance. The chief said Loehmann was “appreciative and thankful” that Flanagan was willing to give him the opportunity to work in law enforcement again. He also noted that Loehmann said he “didn’t want to bring any problems or shame” to the village.

“I think he had done the right thing,” Flanagan said of Loehmann’s decision to withdraw.

On Monday, Flanagan said that Smith was no longer with his department. He said Smith’s last day was Oct. 1.

Flanagan acknowledged that he knew there would be a strong public reaction to his decision to hire Loehmann.

“This incident has just been tough to deal with all the way around,” Flanagan said.

But the chief also said it is difficult to hire officers for his department. Bellaire has eight full-time and three part-time officers, he said Wednesday. He noted that part-time officers earn $12 an hour.

“You just can’t get people who are willing to do this job …,” Flanagan said. “This job pays no money.”

The chief said he wishes that Belmont County had its own law enforcement academy so that local residents could be trained to perform the job without traveling far away from home. Flanagan said he was trained at an academy that once was located along Main Street in St. Clairsville. That institution later moved to Morristown and then to Bethesda, but is now defunct. As a result, Flanagan said the nearest law enforcement training center is in Jefferson County.

He thinks it would be beneficial to the community if Belmont College or the Belmont Career Center would start a new law enforcement training academy in the St. Clairsville area.

With the departures of Loehmann and Smith, the Bellaire Police Department is still looking to add to its ranks. Flanagan said he would like to hire five or six more part-time officers.