Can't we all just get along?

Rift between Norwalk police chief and sheriff boiling over; deputies will continue to investigate drug complaints in Norwalk.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
May 1, 2014

The rift between the Norwalk Police Department and the Huron County Sheriff's Office is out in the open.

Recent comments by police Chief Dave Light indicate there are problems. And a prepared statement from Sheriff Dane Howard confirms there is no love lost between the two agencies.

The most recent problems stem back to a March 25 drug raid on Benedict Avenue in Norwalk.

Claims have been made sheriff's deputies hit the wrong residence, something Howard has denied. The Norwalk police didn't participate in the raid and Light has pointed that out on more than one occasion, trying to distance his department from the situation.

Howard told the Reflector on Monday a special investigator with the Holmes County Sheriff's Office "has found no wrongdoing on the parts of the detectives." In fact, Howard said there was no phone conversation between "my detectives and police personnel about a bad search warrant" -- as alleged in a recent media report -- before the Benedict Avenue incident.

"I have released copies of the text messages of Detective (Kayla) Zander's cell phone. The text messages clearly show that detectives with the Norwalk Police Department took part in that warrant that day," Howard said. (NOTE: The complete text correspondence between Zander and police Detective Sgt. Jim Fulton appears in a separate story on this website.)

On April 9, a woman backed into a Norwalk detective's car. The woman, who was charged with driving without a license, later filed a criminal complaint against a pair of police detectives, alleging menacing and unlawful restraint. The case has been sent to the Huron County Prosecutor's Office for the consideration of charges.

"We received a complaint and forwarded it to the prosecutor's office to recommend if they wanted to get a special investigator," Chief Deputy Ted Patrick said.

No decision has been made by the prosecutor's office.

Sheriff's detective Eric Bardar investigated the accident.

"I think this is just a huge pay back and deflection, trying to take attention away from them," Light said about the sheriff's office. "Eric Bardar, with his lack of knowledge of the law, is going to run along with her (the driver) trying to deflect the attention to the Norwalk Police Department."

Light also questions deputies' tactics, training and knowledge of the law. He cited one raid on Henry Street in which a woman -- who had undergone a hysterectomy the previous day -- was sitting on the toilet naked when deputies burst into the bathroom, "pointing a gun at her head." The woman's daughter was arrested after pills were found in the residence.

Howard addressed many of those claims in this prepared statement:

"In regard to the search warrant on Benedict Avenue, an independent investigation by an outside agency was conducted at my request, and it's absolutely clear that my detectives were well within the boundaries of the law and their actions were appropriate," Howard said. "We have received an oral report from the investigator, while the final written report should be available at the end of this week.

"In a meeting late last year with the police chief (Light), he did ask me to order my deputies and detectives to not conduct investigations in the city of Norwalk. This is an unreasonable and immoral request on his part. The chief is asking my deputies to be derelict in their duties and violate their oath of office.

"We live in an age of a heroin epidemic, whereas the heroin trafficker and heroin abuser have no jurisdictional boundaries. The deputies here are very well trained and I have high expectations for them. Their orders are to seek out the felony drug violator and complete the investigation and, if appropriate, make the arrest," Howard said.

"Over the last five and one-half years, this office has received numerous complaints from citizens, many of which are anonymous, of drug activity in the city of Norwalk that the citizen has reported to the detectives of the Norwalk Police Department with no results. Just since October of 2011, the detectives with the Huron County Sheriff's Office have conducted over 75 felony drug investigations within the city of Norwalk and many more outside the city. The belief here is that if we aggressively investigate the heroin-based crimes, that it will be a deterrent on other related crimes, such as larceny, breaking and entering and burglaries. Many of these felony drug abuse offenders travel from the city into the townships and commit these crimes. Clearly our tactics are working, indicated by the reduction in burglaries in the townships.

"We have tried through the years to work very hard with the Norwalk Police Department, and in most cases successfully. We will make every effort, along with my clear orders that we will assist the Norwalk Police Department wherever and whenever they need us, because that is exactly what the citizens want and deserve from us.

"We need to stay focused on providing a service to the citizens of Huron County and not get involved in petty, prideful bickering.

"The Huron County Sheriff's Office will work very hard to mend the differences between the agencies, but not at the expense of enforcing the law equally and fairly. The issue here is not whether or not my men and women acted correctly during the execution of (a) warrant, because the evidence clearly proves that they did. The issue is that the chief does not want us conducting heroin-based investigations in the city of Norwalk. The men and women of the Huron County Sheriff's Office are charged with enforcing the laws in all 500 square miles of this county. The deputies are paid to make a difference, not make excuses.

"There are many great men and women at the Norwalk Police Department, as well as the Huron County Sheriff's Office, and in time, these wounds will heal. My last thought is shame on him for these tasteless tactics and for putting his territorial-based pride over the safety of the citizens," Howard said.

Patrick, Howard's chief deputy and spokesman, said Monday the sheriff's office will continue to respond to drug-related complaints from citizens who live in the city of Norwalk -- despite what Norwalk police want or say about jurisdictional issues.

"The only way they're going to be happy is if we stay out of the city and don't investigate the drug complaints. Norwalk is in Huron County. When the citizens file a complaint, we respond to the complaint," Patrick said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby, news editor Matt Roche and managing editor Joe Centers contributed to this story.

 

Comments

Truckstop

The only way this ends is by King Dane climbing down off his high horse to work with other law enforcement agencies and by realizing that by alienating everyone he does no one any favors. He won't work with Norwalk detectives, Willard detectives, or State Highway Patrol, because then his picture wouldn't appear in the paper. Meanwhile, his inexperienced deputies continue to do a less than adequate job of investigating crimes in cities where he shouldn't be operating. Shame on him.

Idea for a follow up story: I noticed Dane's detectives use Judge Cardwell (juvenile Court) to sign search warrants not pertaining to minors (see HCSO busting down the wrong door on Benedict Ave). Why is this? Will Conway not sign off on them? Seems like the judge who would hear the case would be better situated to determine if the proper amount of evidence was there. Is the SO trying to back door the process?

I_wonder

A better follow on story would be the conviction ratio of the arrest. How many cases had evidence suppressed or thrown out?

Sarrak

All I can tell you is that Chief Dave Light is an outstanding police officer and human being. I have known him a long time and have never known him to lie about anything. Keep up the good work Dave.

Truckstop

@Sarrak: I agree completely. Chief Light is the true professional here. The sheriff's lack of ability and training is shining through, much to the harm of Huron County. Anywhere else and Dane would've been asked to step down by now.

betrump

Oh, please. He's been anything but professional. Wake up.

earlduck

somehow it just doesn't seem right for chief light's friends to come on here and give him a superman evaluation.the friendship bias just reeks

rippedhippy1

No kidding, right? The only people that should comment on this, are the ones who dislike him, and feel the need to slam and disparage him. Who wants to hear nice things about him, or anyone for that matter? What's this place coming to?

NorwalkReflector

I think it is terrible how this newspaper reruns controversial news items. There is no new material here. By doing so the NR is tearing at the little bit of community enthusiasm we have left. Move on Joe. Let Dave and Dane work their own problems out.

Shannon2

No new material? Did you actually read the other stories? This is the first time Sheriff Howard has addressed the things said about him by Chief Light. The Sandusky Register still hasn't bothered to get his side of things. This is the only story I've seen where the sheriff speaks so direct and explains what happened. I'm glad the NR didn't move on and actually let the sheriff speak!

TheAngloSaxon

@Truckstop the judge that issues the warrant cannot be the same one to try the case he being the judge isn't allowed to show bias therefore Cardwell signs the majority of warrants because he is the juvenile judge

Truckstop

@TheAngloSaxon:

That is not true at all. Get your facts straight.

TheAngloSaxon

@truckstop

The magistrate before whom an officer applies for a warrant must be neutral and detached. This qualification means that the magistrate must be impartial and not a member of the "competitive enterprise" of law enforcement (see California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565 [1991]). Thus, the magistrate in issuance of the warrant cannot preside over the same case in addition police officers, prosecutors, and attorney generals are disqualified from becoming a magistrate. States vary as to the requirements that candidates must possess before they will be considered qualified for the job of
magistrate. Some states require that magistrates have an attorney's license, while others require only that their magistrates be literate.

DanielHolida

You. I like you. Learned something new and valuable today.

AuntieEm

I think since Chief Light does not appreciate the help the Sheriff Howard and his department offer within city limits the sheriffs department should stand down and just offer their services to the the remainder of Huron County. Why go where you're not wanted or appreciated. I have seen the work that the sheriffs department detectives have done and it is commendable. If Chief Light feels he can handle the entire city of Norwalk single handed it frees up the Sheriffs departments workload. Just make sure every drug runner coming in or out of the cesspool is nailed.

Fibber Mcgee

I did see a deputy make a traffic stop on West Main Street yesterday.
Maybe stepping up patrols in the city by the SO?

Stonybaby

Chief Light the second story chief never leaves his office or puts down his coffee cup. This is a drug epidemic and really has no place for a nice guy. Besides heroin users dying left and right and yeah in Norwalk too. When they are awake the addict are stealing everything they see. The sheriffs people are perusing these dopers and this distraction isn't helping either side and certainly not the people of Huron county. Fry and Fulton might have a little butt hurt ego it is clear the "inexperienced " are doing a far better job getting the heroin out of their jurisdiction. Lets see stats for heroin cases that will prove it all. The numbers.

Truckstop

@Stonybaby: Policing is far more about being a member of the community than it is just knocking down the wrong doors. LEt's look at the numbers, I agree. But let's also consider that the SO has responsiblity for 60,000 residents while the NPD operates in a town of 17,000. Let's also consider the number of staff. So make sure the numbers are per capita and not on the whole. The point is that the Sheriff cannot get along with other policing agencies in this county and therefore hurts everyone. Drugs are running rampant out in the Couty (see Celleryville, Greenwich and rural Willard) while the SO runs around Norwalk becuase they know they'll get their picture in the paper. Fry and Fulton do a great job keeping Norwalk safe and when King Dane brings his inexperienced deputies into town to knock down the wrong door, it puts everyone at risk.

AuntieEm

Need to add how unfair it is that the Norwalk Reflector uses such bias in using professional pictures of Chief Light and snapshots of Sheriff Howard. One of many reasons I refuse to purchase this newspaper.

Shannon2

Aunt Em, did the tornado knock you a little senseless? IMO that's a very professional-looking "snapshot" of Sheriff Howard. If anything, Chief Light looks a little pale. But I hardly think the Norwalk Reflector is being bias by posting this pictures.

OMGNEWS

Looks like you got your wish they updated his photo congrats to you.

luvblues2

New photo is Rosco P. Coltrane + Boss Hogg = Sheriff Dane.

starryeyes83

At least Roscoe and Boss Hogg were funny.

luvblues2

:)..kinna sorta. My son loved it when he was little.

starryeyes83

Me too, I still do.

Veteran71's picture
Veteran71

O wow power to the people you just got your photograph AuntieEm

yellitoutloud

The sheriff's office has this problem with every department in Huron county not just NPD. Some deputies have said its them against everyone else. "They are the enemy", right Bardar.

I_wonder

@stonybaby, Big difference in being a nice guy and actually abiding by the Constitution. Have you thought how much Howard's refusal to step has cost the NPD? The cases ruined by the SO had money and manpower wrapped up in them.

That would be City tax payer money. You feel it is perfectly acceptable for one agency to compromise another agency's work?. Why doesn't Howard have his deputies work cases in the county? He sees the low level easy pickings in Norwalk and goes after them.

Has his office gotten anything in bulk? Arrested a major player? Seized huge amounts of cash for forfeiture? Nope, all low level users supplying their own habit.

By interfering with or compromising Norwalk PD's cases, he has done a huge disservice to his office and the tax payers of Norwalk.

If they are running traffic in Norwalk,they better damn well start ticketing their own, personal and marked vehicles. Watch a deputy drive in Norwalk. Rolling stops, speed, failing to signal, every violation tey are using for a pretext traffic stop hoping to search a vehicle for drugs.

Whether Light leaves his office or not has zero bearing in this. One could say that Howard only leaves his office for some photo ops that are pre-arranged.

I'd rather have a lead law enforcement officer working in his office to get things done than trying to get his mug splashed in the paper every week.

betrump

Whoa! For starters, if it's 'easy picking' in Norwalk, then the NPD should be picking. They're obviously not doing their job if the HCSO has to. Secondly, Have you ever watched any of NPD's officers drive? Apparently, turn signals don't come standard in their patrol cars. Many are reckless. I see it all the time. They speed, they tailgate, etc.
Too, I recall last year my parents complaining of constant, major drug deals by a neighbor to the NPD, and their response was: "We know. We're watching him." A year later, he's still doing it, in a neighborhood with literally over 50 young children in it. NPD is a joke, and it all starts at the top. Yeah, the same guy that publicly said the Sandy Hook shooting occurred because 'they' took god out of our schools. Absolute moron.

-rebel's picture
-rebel

It's pretty obvious that you're not a fan of the NPD. What's the matter, did you break the law and get cited but thought they were picking on you? Regular law abiding citizens usually appreciate their local law enforcement. If you have such an axe to grind with the police then just stay out of Norwalk.

betrump

I've never seen a jail cell, no. Never even gotten so much as a speeding ticket. But I pay attention. I hear. I see. I have no axe to grind. I just expect professionalism from law enforcement, and that is something non-existent in Norwalk. Just because I'm a law abiding citizen doesn't mean I should look the other way. Try pulling your head out of (the sand).

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