fires police officer over February incident
Yellow Springs police officer Matt Williams was fired last week after
an internal police investigation and a pre-disciplinary hearing found
that Williams lied about and filed a false report about an incident that
occurred last February. The investigation and hearing also found that
Williams misused his power as a police officer when he allegedly twice
stopped three young women driving through town during the early morning
of Feb. 14, 2002.
Williamss attorney, Jeffrey Shulman of the Dayton law firm Sebaly,
Shillito & Dyer, said Monday that the Villages allegations about
Williams are not true. Shulman declined to offer specific details, saying
he would not try the case in the press. I am confident that at the
end of the day he will be reinstated, Shulman said.
Police Chief Jim Miller started an investigation after Sabrina Jones of
Cedarville, who was driving during the incident, filed a complaint with
the Village on Feb. 21. As a result of the investigation, Miller recommended
the Village dismiss Williams.
Williams, who was hired as a part-time officer in May 1998 and moved up
to full-time in March 1999, had been placed on paid administrative leave
on Nov. 26, pending the hearing. In accordance with the Villages
personnel policy manual, a hearing, overseen by a neutral hearing officer,
Michael Hammond, a former municipal manager, was held on Dec. 6.
According to Hammonds report on the hearing, the Village presented
sworn testimony from Jones, Miller and Police Captain John Grote during
the hearing; Williams and his girlfriend, Kathy Allinikov, testified in
his defense. The Village also presented documents and witness statements.
In his report, Hammond concluded that Williams did engage in the misconduct
alleged by Miller.
Village Manager Rob Hillard in a letter dated Jan. 2 notified Williams
that he was fired. Hillard said that Williamss actions were inconsistent
with your continued employment as a police officer for the Village of
Yellow Springs. Saying that Williams is not capable of changing
his behavior, Hillard said, You have been given repeated opportunities
to demonstrate your honesty and integrity and have failed to do so.
Williams will appeal the Villages decision, Shulman said, but its
unclear what Williamss options are now. Hillard said Monday that
the Villages internal appeals process has been exhausted.
Shulman said it was inappropriate for the Village to fire Williams 10
months after the incident took place. We feel it was inappropriate
to fire him, period, he said. The fact that it was done 10
months after the incident occurred fuels the prohibitiveness of it.
When asked to explain, Shulman said, It seems to me that if an officer
really engaged in conduct that was deserving of being fired, that would
be something that would take place rather promptly.
Williamss home phone number is unlisted and he could not be reached
for comment. A request for an interview with the officer was also made
through Shulman. Shulman said Williams would not comment for this article.
In an interview Monday, Miller said that the investigation showed Williams
stopped Jones without probable case and that the officer was not
truthful about that traffic stop.
While police officers can make errors in judgment, it is important for
them to be truthful, Miller said. In his report of the investigation,
Miller said, Regretfully, but due to the high level of trust law
enforcement must earn and maintain with the public that gives us our authority,
I must recommend officer Williams be terminated as an officer with the
Yellow Springs Police Department.
Miller said he is very confident in the investigation and
in his conclusions. He also objected to Shulmans position about
the length of time between the incident and Williamss dismissal.
Miller said the Yellow Springs Police Department has limited resources
and does not have an internal affairs department to conduct these types
of investigations. He described the investigation as thorough. No
one can accuse us of rushing through the investigation, he said.
The length of time it took doesnt change the facts,
Differing accounts of incident
The accounts given by those involved in the incident on Feb. 14 vary.
For instance, Jones claimed Williams stopped her twice, while Williams
claimed he only stopped her once; Jones voluntarily stopped to talk to
him a second time, he reported.
Based on reports by Miller and Hammond, and statements made before and
during last months hearing, heres what appears to have happened
that morning: At approximately 2:59 a.m., Sabrina Jones and two passengers
were driving through Yellow Springs and turned left onto U.S. 68 from
Dayton Street. Williams, who was the only officer on duty that morning,
stopped Jones and accused her of speeding and drinking and driving. Williams
said he smelled alcohol in the truck. Jones denied she had been either
drinking or speeding and asked Williams to see the radar gun. Williams
refused, she said.
Williams reported that he gave Jones a sobriety test and told her she
was not impaired. Jones and her passengers, Sarah Blair and Nya Williams,
did not report that Matt Williams performed the sobriety test during the
Williams then gave Jones a verbal warning. In her statement and in her
testimony during the hearing, Jones reported that Williams let her go,
saying, You owe me now.
Jones then proceeded north on U.S. 68 in her pickup truck and dropped
off Blair at her home in Springfield. Jones drove back to Yellow Springs
to take Nya Williams home here in town.
Matt Williams admitted that at some point he told Jones that she now owed
him, but during his testimony, Williams said Jones might have taken this
out of context. He testified that he hoped to get information from Jones
in the future, since, he said, she hangs out at night around town.
Jones and Nya Williams said as they reentered Yellow Springs on Xenia
Avenue, Matt Williams pulled out of Pettits BP and followed the
truck. They claimed Williams pulled them over on Xenia Avenue near the
Yellow Springs Library. Jones said Williams only flashed his cruisers
emergency lights, but did not leave the lights on during the traffic stop.
The officer ordered Jones out of the truck and gave her a sobriety test,
she alleged. Though Jones and her passengers had been at a dance club
that night, Jones reported that Williams also accused her of being at
a strip club with a bunch of whores. Before Williams let Jones go a second
time, she reported, he insisted that she thank him.
Williamss account of this second stop is much different. In his
testimony, Williams said that he was parked at the BP station when a speeding
car passed by. Williams followed the car to see if the car was weaving,
but stopped, when he could not confirm this.
He said that he parked the cruiser on Xenia Avenue and Limestone Street
to knock ice off his cars wiper blades. In his testimony and in
a written statement made last September, Williams said that this is when
Jones pulled up and asked to talk. He denied following her car and denied
using the word whore during his conversation with Jones. The
officer testified that he did not give Jones a sobriety test during this
Williams claimed that Jones said she was upset because she had a fight
with her boyfriend. He also alleged that she admitted to drinking a beer
earlier. Williams reported that he told her not to call him by his first
name, after which Jones drove away.
In his daily report, in which an officer records his or her
activities while on duty, Williams said he was running radar on Xenia
Avenue and Dayton Street at the time the second encounter likely occurred.
He did not log the stop in his daily report nor did he report that he
was on Xenia near Limestone when the second incident took place. Williams
said he did not record this stop because he did not initiate it and because
it was uneventful.
In his testimony and in a written statement, Williams said he was standing
outside his car on Xenia Avenue when Jones pulled her truck over. Yellow
Springs officers are required to notify the on-duty dispatcher when they
get out of their car. Williams did not call this in. After Jones filed
her complaint with the Village, Miller reported, Williams told the chief
that he was sitting in the car at the time.
At Millers request, both Jones and Williams agreed to take lie detector
tests, both of which were conducted by Detective Alonzo Wilson of the
Xenia Police Division. According to Wilson, Jones did not lie when questioned
about the incidents; the test showed Williams was deceptive.
Miller said he focused his investigation on what happened during the second
encounter between Williams and Jones and how that encountered occurred.
From the investigation I could only reach one conclusion, that the
ladies who came in to report the incident were being truthful, he
During the hearing, Grote and Miller testified that in the past Williams
had been untruthful about several incidents. Because of this, Miller said
he had reason to believe Joness version of the incident.
In his report, Hammond, the hearing officer, said, It is reasonable
to conclude that Williams is not being truthful about the
events of Feb. 14; he stopped Jones a second time, without probable
cause, which is a misuse of the power authority entrusted to him
as a police officer; and he filed a false report concerning
his activities that morning.
Complaints and commendations
While Williams, who is 35, lost his job over this specific incident, his
personnel file indicates that he had struggled lately at his job. While
Williams received an overall satisfactory grade on an evaluation for March
1999 to February 2000, he received a number of poor marks on his last
evaluation, which covered March 2001 to March 2002, and which was conducted
by Captain Grote. Grote rated Williams as strongly needing improvement.
In the latest evaluation, Grote said that Williams has the potential
to be a good officer with good communication skills, and good demeanor
with the public. But Grote also said that Williams needed to change
and understand the importance of being authentic in this profession.
Based on the evaluation, Williams was denied a step increase in pay.
Records in Williamss personnel file also show that the department
had received several complaints about him. Grote reported in Williamss
2002 evaluation that the complaints were about the officers actions
when working with the public.
During his career here, Williams also received a number of letters of
commendation from Chief Miller and local residents.