From student fights to building lockdowns, shootings and sexual assaults, today’s schools are a mirror of society.
That’s why schools everywhere have trained professionals on stand-by — to prevent violence, and minimize the danger when it does happen.
Our investigation uncovered a disturbing trend. Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Police Department was hiring officers with questionable work histories. What our investigation found should be concern to students, parents and even the schools themselves.
Even more disturbing, Cleveland schools hired many of its officers without thoroughly vetting their past, and when they did, CMSD top brass chose to ignore it.
Our investigative team researched the backgrounds of more than a dozen police officers employed by Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Division of Safety and Security. I discovered many have questionable backgrounds that range from allegations of criminal activity, to unprofessional conduct on the job.
“We want them to be above the bar, above board and have the cleanest records themselves to know they don’t have any conflict or biases. And that their dedication is to the best protection of the children” said Ken Trump, a nationally known school security expert.
Is Tony Jones someone you want protecting your child?
Jones once worked for Highland Hills Police. In 2006, records show Jones was permitted to resign from Highland Hills, rather than to face departmental charges of sexual battery.
When Jones applied for a similar job in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District three years later, Highland Hills sent the schools his personnel file, along with details of allegations. Per his supervisors, Jones admitted he was spending time, while on-duty, with his girlfriend at the Shaker House Apartments. In a statement to police, the woman said Jones would “take his police belt off, lay it on the dresser and remove his uniform.” What they did afterwards, the woman refused to say, calling it “personal.”
While socializing with his girlfriend, his bosses say Jones missed several police calls, including an accident in which someone was injured. Jones was told to “resign or face departmental charges” Highland Hills told me no one from CMSD ever followed up with a phone call, and the CMSD promptly hired Jones as a police officer.
Paul Reddix Jr. also carries a gun and a badge for CMSD, which is one of the eleven departments he’s worked for over the past twenty years. One of Reddix’s stops was Northfield Village, where records show he was given the option to resign or face termination in 2004, for “continuous violation of departmental rules and regulations” including failure to report for duty.
Reddix also worked for Highland Hills Police, where according to personnel records, he was disciplined 14 times in less than a one year period, among other things, for failure to respond to calls for assistance and discouraging other officers from enforcing traffic laws. Personnel records also show Reddix didn’t comply with mandated behavioral health treatment, and failed to complete a treatment program and therapy sessions. In a letter from the Chief, Reddix was given the option of being fired or resigning, and he resigned. Apparently, that was good enough for Cleveland Schools. They hired Reddix in 2013.
Jason Zimmerman was in the process of being fired from Highland Hills, when Cleveland Schools hired him. At Highland Hills, he was suspended for operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner, and another time for improper handling of firearms, according to Highland Hills personnel files. It seems Zimmerman inadvertently fired a shotgun out of his patrol car right in front of the police station, according to those records. This happened two years after he was fired from the Linndale Police Department, according to personnel records.
After seeing a pattern of issues with previous employers, yet still hired by CMSD, I went looking for answers from CMSD Police Chief Lester Fultz.
Fultz is the Chief of the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools Police Department, ultimately in charge of the hiring. We tried to ask him about these and other questionable hires at CMSD Police – but he physically tried to dodge me, and ignore all questions. Some of the information on these officers had already been out in the media, on television and in the newspaper for wrong doings.
Masai Brown attracted widespread media attention, after he was fired from Woodmere Police for viewing porn on the mayor’s computer and falsifying village records, according to a suspension letter inside his personnel file. Brown sued, and the firing was tied up in court for years. In 2012, the Ohio Court of Appeals ruled in Woodmere’s favor.
A simple computer search would have shown that Brown also was once indicted for kidnapping and felonious assault with a firearm. A woman told police Brown forced her into his car, pulled out a handgun and threatened to kill her before firing one round. The indictment was dismissed when the woman didn’t show up to court.
After Brown’s arrest, Woodmere personnel files said a doctor concluded during a psychological exam that Brown “is a man with a lot of problems and has character disorder with antisocial traits. A very angry man.”
When Brown applied for a job with CMSD, he was asked if he was ever fired. His reply: “No.” Soon after, Cleveland Schools hired Brown to be a security officer.
Even after they’ve been hired, Cleveland Metropolitan School District continues to employ officers in trouble with the law.
Despite media coverage here on Cleveland 19 News, Kendall Fortson remains on the CMSD force, despite his sixth Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction.
After Jessica Kusinko was hired, she was indicted on charges of telecommunications fraud, harassment and obstructing justice. Court records show she pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge and was sentenced to community control. Kusinko continued to work for CMSD for another year until just recently when she was fired for filing a false report, improper conduct and forgery, according to CMSD.
“Aren’t there better people and qualified applicants out there you can hire to protect children?” asked Trump.
The Cleveland Police Department, under the directive of the Department of Justice’s consent decree, now must check previous law enforcement employment files on top of the regularly mandated BCI, FBI and drug screening tests and various certifications and training needed to be a law enforcement officer. Shouldn’t those working in Cleveland Metropolitan Schools as police officer also have their previous law enforcement files vetted too?
I haven’t gotten answers from the chief, but I will continue to ask questions about the people protecting our children.
The individuals named in this report were contacted by Cleveland 19 News and have not yet commented.
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