Thursday, December 23, 2010

PO-PI Pleads Guilty to a Felony

The following is another example of an unlicensed individual operating as an unlicensed PI only in this case he's also a police officer. 
Akron police lose 20-year veteran after he pleads guilty to felony charge involving database
By Phil Trexler Beacon Journal staff writerPublished on Wednesday, Dec 22, 2010 

An Akron police officer, whose career started with an explosive high-speed crash, has ended with a few illegal strokes of a computer. Sgt. Gary Webb, a 20-year veteran of the Akron police force, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge that he improperly used a law enforcement database to investigate parents regarding residency requirements for Copley-Fairlawn schools.

He performed the work off-duty as a contracted private investigator for the suburban district.

Webb, 47, resigned from the department Friday in anticipation of his appearance in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
On Monday, Webb pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony and was given six months of probation by Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove.

His attorney and the department's union chief said the state law that forced Webb's departure, claimed the career of a good police officer who made an unwitting mistake. ''I don't think he had any intention of violating the law and it's a shame because the city of Akron is losing an exemplary officer,'' defense attorney Brian Pierce.

Police Chief Craig Gilbride said Tuesday that an investigation determined Webb was conducting private investigations for Copley schools. The work required him to determine whether some families lived in the district.

On occasion, that private work led to the sergeant's use of LEADS, a state law enforcement database, to check license plates of families claiming to reside in the Copley-Fairlawn district. He used department computers to conduct the work, the investigation showed.

Ohio law prohibits the use of the LEADS system for anything other than law enforcement purposes.
''It's sad,'' Gilbride said, ''but it's the law and we continue to police our own.''
Paul Hlynsky condemned the internal investigation that led to Webb's criminal charges, a conviction that leaves him with a felony record that cannot be expunged for three years. With the conviction, he is banned from carrying a firearm.

Webb is vested in the state pension system, but he did not serve the required 25 years for a full payment.
''I think the law that was created is overly harsh and provides no latitude for a reduction to a misdemeanor. It's a classic case of creating a bad law,'' Hlynsky said.

Webb joined the department in February 1990 and was the partner of patrolman Russ Long. The two officers in 1991 were involved in a high-speed chase that ended in a violent crash. Long was left paralyzed. Webb also was injured but eventually returned to the department. Long's name is attached to the department's annual ''Officer of the Year'' award given since 1996.

Hlynsky said the computer violation investigation allowed Webb to fall victim to a ''personal vendetta'' waged by ''a few'' higher-ranking officers in the department. He declined to name the officers, but he said the entire matter should have been conducted internally without felony charges being brought.

''I hope these people that did this to Gary examine themselves because what goes around, comes around,'' Hlynsky said. ''This is nothing but vengeance against a guy that didn't deserve it.''
Brian Poe, superintendent of Copley-Fairlawn schools, said Webb began working as a contractor with the district in September 2008. His work ended in February 2010, and he had been paid $3,790 for 95 hours of investigative work.

Residency violations have been an on-going problem in the Copley district. In several instances, families have been found living outside the district and as a result, parents have been sued for back tuition payments.
Poe could not say if Webb's work revealed any residency violators, but he said the district does not condone illegal activities while conducting the work.

Akron police conducted an internal investigation. The State Highway Patrol conducted a criminal investigation. The Ohio Attorney General's Office handled the prosecution.

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