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

Wildbunch3

IMO all cities and the county need to work together to fight this war! Who gives a crap about what agency gets the most busts... let's just get these lovers off the streets! If we all have the same goal let's put our egos to the side and get the job done!

Truckstop

@Wildbunch3: I think we are all in agreement. Which is why you'll read in another article that Willard, Bellevue, Greenwich, STate Highway PAtrol, and Wakeman all work together quite often to do concentrated operations. Where's the SO in all of this? HE WON'T COOPERATE because then he won't get all the credit. Also, he has this irrational fear that if he cooperates the State Highway PAtrol will become a state police force and he'll have to get in shape or face losing his job.

ladydye_5

Who keeps initiating all the articles? Does the Sheriff call one day and want another article? Then Chief Light? Or is it the NR yet again beating a dead horse. It is the same information just reworded.

uliveinagetto

The chief was in charge when the heroin problem started, while it escalated and still while it continues to take over the town. He apparently allows a certain sergeant to continue to have psycho attacks when dealing with the public. Does this man go crazy when dealing with big heroin kingpins? Or just with 5 foot women and kids? Why alot of people on here have no problem with the drug and theft problem and this man in charge is beyond me. Sooner or later your safety has to take precedence over your friendships and favorites. These men have allowed a joke to be made out of the department and the town of Norwalk. No way should this man be sitting behind a desk with a cup all day long, if this is true. I believe he should be out there attacking this problem instead of making excuses. Where is Jim Ward? Is he employed? You might laugh and say he was a speed trap and traffic cop, but I'm sure the people of that town will all agree that trouble wouldn't even attempt to enter his jurisdiction.

I_wonder

The heroin problem started long before Light became chief and has plagued many more communities than Norwalk.

Heroin isn't just Norwalk's problem, it is nationwide. You may be more aware because of the lower population in the area.

I_wonder

Howard initiates most of it. The NR feeds into his megalomania. Remember all the small drug busts and a NR reporter was on scene for photos. That was Howard making sure he got some PR. Much more sexy than giving the NR the report after the fact.

Just as Nancy Reagan wanted us to say no to drugs, the NR should just start saying no to Howard and his small time drug busts unless it is an honest to goodness piece of news that benefits the tax payers.

Stonybaby

I wonder how much heroin it takes to stop the breathing and the heart beat of the average American teen? The typical dose is just 1/10 of a gram the variable is how concentrated is the 1/10 of a gram 10%..20%..70% who knows ? If a bust removes just a balloon or two off the streets could those be the balloons that end a life ? It' just that serious everyday people are dying. On the other hand I guess writing a ticket for criminal indicators can save a life too. I think the game has change even a few balloons can be important. But if you just writing to politically hate the sheriff that's totally different. I get that but every drug bust counts.

I_wonder

Every bust doesn't count. If law enforcement isn't operating within the framework of the Constitution they are wrong. Any agency that knowingly compromises another agency's cases is wrong.

The So isn't making a dent in the heroin problem. All you see is low level users getting busted. Not one major player yet.

These people knowingly decided to try heroin. I have no sympathy for for them but I do expect their rights to be protected as any other US citizen.

Using a traffic violation as a pretext for a drug search is wrong and the courts have gone as far as to condemn such practice. There is no reason the SO should be running traffic in the city.

The drugs seized do not validate shady practices used to seize them.

luvblues2

The issue still is, that the 4th Amendment rights of Collins were ignored. Plain and simple. I don't care WHO did it.

darrion23

I am no longer a Norwalk resident but I do have some still living in Norwalk. I feel sorry for the citizens of Norwalk & Hancock Co., knowing that the 2 (two) top dogs of Law Enforcement have allowed their personal issues to go this far? There is a huge drug & crime issue rising up in Norwalk & throughout the state. We read about drug busts, burglaries, thefts & other crimes happening in Norwalk & throughout the county. We pay tax dollars to these organizations to help protect our community & they don't realize they can be more successful working together instead of against each other. I am embarrassed to see this happening & to see that is has got to this point...Wow...Someone, Mayor, taxpayers at election, attorney general, whoever needs to step in and send a message that this behavior should not be tolerated by people at this level...Are you kidding me? Wow

humpty_dumpty

ITS simple the sherriff wants local pd dept to stay out this way the Sherriff and his stooges can get there pic taken hey look at us we made a small bust and made it look like we took down the cartel~!

Really are you ...

Look at the bigger picture. IMO it is more of an inner personal power struggle. An I am the top dog in Huron County mentality, this is how I will be remembered. See my picture in the local paper, all of the drug busts... Then the battle for funding. I have a newer jail. How about new cruisers? A department won't get much funding if they are seen as ineffective. That's why a lot of thing are closing down right now. They can't compete.

Say-What

Dane needs to go away period. He doesn't work well with anyone on anything period. Chief Light may have his flaws but you don't see him pushing his chest out being the bully on a regular basis now do you. HCSO screwed up plain and simple and needs to be held accountable and quit trying to push the focus on NPD when they aren't the ones in the wrong.

JACKEL

Have you ever been followed by a SO Patrol Car. I have on occasion on Shady Lane Drive and of course our first reaction is to make sure you are driving the speed limit. They will get right in your trunk violating tailgating. Now if they are in a hurry fine, just hit the lights.

NWalk99

Police Departments, Sheriffs Offices - Huron County / Any County. They are all full of corruption in one way shape or form. I do not care if the head of the agency is righteous or not, as a leader of a team - you are accountable for every one on your teams actions. I do not trust any of them and I have never had a run in with any of them. Clearly they are not going to settle a drug issue in Huron County when they cannot even settle a simple jurisdiction dispute amongst each other.

kURTje

This is actually great. People should know who in public SERVICE is sincere. I urge people to examine past performances & talk to various L.E. You'll know the truth if you dig a little.

FTFOI

OH come on, All of you.
Stop feeding the fire here.
1) Every town and city in this great nation has drugs in it. Some more public than others. Yes we need to keep working on getting them off the streets. Both officers are trying. Combined they are doing a great job.
I have no favorite here. I know and like 1, Have met and talked to the other.
They simply have 2 different plans and ways to get it done. They have stepped on each others toes and are grown adults. Let them work it out.
The way I see it is if each is doing things differently then the street dealer have to watch over both shoulders, not just 1.
Dane, Dave, I hope you both realize What I am saying. Keep the dealers running. We as business owners know first hand that training our help sounds simple, But keeping them all on the same page is more difficult. Keep on the training,
Try bring in some citizens, Let your personal ask them questions about their work. Then give the citizen a survey on how they felt about the officers.
Keep up the great work guys. And thank you for protecting us all.

yogi bear

Joe Centers, just out of curiosity sake, why don't you do a public records request to NPD for copies of all the text messages sent by Fulton to Zandra about the raid. Then compare them and see if the sheriff released them all or just the ones he wanted.

humpty_dumpty

every drug bust DONT COUNT im not condoneing usedrugs but lets me real the sheriff would want his pic in paper if he found 3 joints and 2 pipes.

rickross2

Huh?

haterwalkme

i guess the woman is lucky she didnt get a coke bottle wiped at her we all know Light lets that one fly over his head fry is a joke

I_wonder

And Howard tries to railroad his deputies with false accusations. Missing automatic weapon? Oh, wait a minute. Corbin had nothing to do with even though he was placed on suspension for it.

rickross2

The script for Super Troopers 2 is writing itself! Lol

ferball14

I don't want a large farva...I want a GD liter of cola!!!!

loulou589

Super Troopers anyone?? lol

loulou589

Super Troopers anyone?? lol

OMGNEWS

the picture of light is all funky. I demand an updated picture that is more on par with the howards.

OMGNEWS

clearly Mr howard mustache is far superior to that of Mr lights.

I_wonder

Well, the new picture of Howard is the only professional thing to come out of his office.

dontcare

Matt and Cary, would you please address why the other text were not included in the article. Just curious, other responses seem to indicate something very important is missing from your story. I think you owe it to the readers to tell them, was this purposeful or were the texts not turned over to you or are there any more texts?

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