The nephew of Akron’s embattled former police chief says his concerns of wide-spread police corruption were ignored for months by city officials.
Some of those claims boiled over last weekend when Police Chief James Nice abruptly resigned amid a trio of misdeeds and allegations.
City leaders now acknowledge Nice used racial slurs – including the N-word – directed at Public Safety Director Charles Brown and that the chief had a year-long affair with a high-ranking and married officer.
Nice’s lawyer, Michael Callahan, has not denied the allegations.
The lawman is also under investigation for potentially obstructing a criminal investigation involving his nephew, and allegations that he coerced a notary to forge a car title for the female officer’s step-son.
Nice and his attorney deny any criminal misconduct.
Joseph Nice, 41, said his uncle, the chief, “had no involvement” in his own criminal case. Joseph Nice is currently indicted in Summit County on theft and forgery charges related to his former used car business.
But the younger Nice says the Akron police detective investigating his case acted improperly. And, he says, that was among the issues he raised as far back as May to multiple city leaders.
“I told them there was corruption,” he said Friday. “I think they have blood on their hands. So, I’m anxious to see what’s going to happen…I think there’s questions that need to be answered by the city and by the mayor.”
A special prosecutor has been retained to investigate the chief and other potential misconduct.
In an interview with Channel 3 News, Joseph Nice said his uncle is not a racist, but he would not say whether he ever heard his uncle use racial slurs. The two men were close, and the chief would visit his nephew nearly every day.
“I don’t believe my uncle is a racist at all,” he said. “As a matter of fact, the city is saying they have compelling evidence against my uncle showing he used the N-word. I think [citizens] have a right to see it.”
Multiple sources have said that Joseph Nice boasted of having video and audio recordings of his uncle using the racial slurs. The nephew would neither confirm or deny the allegation. No one familiar with the case viewed the recordings, if they do exist.
“If my uncle made a mistake, we all have,” Joseph Nice said.
He said the media are placing too much emphasis on race and not enough about the alleged police corruption.
“[City leaders] know all about these different things yet all we hear about is race, race, race. I’m sick of it,” he said.
Mayor Dan Horrigan and interim Chief Kenneth Ball were both critical of James Nice’s conduct. Ball, in fact, said the chief’s actions and use of slurs were “embarrassing” and in conflict with the agency’s mission. He promised a full-blown investigation.
Horrigan’s press office on Friday cited the ongoing investigation and did not comment on Joseph Nice’s allegations and the potential criminal conduct of anyone within the police department.
“Do I think my uncle may have done something wrong? Possibly,” Joseph Nice said. “But I think he has the right to justice.”
Joseph Nice said he feels no responsibility for his uncle’s resignation. He said he believes the sudden move was connected to the former chief’s relationship with the female officer and nothing else.
“I think my uncle had strong feelings for her and I think he wanted to save her,” he said.
The affair, if true, was grounds to termination and potential discipline for the female officer. Joseph Nice said many on the police force have known about the affair for months, but said nothing. The female officer remains on duty.
“If everybody in the police department knows about this, how doesn’t the mayor know?,” Joseph Nice said.
Multiple sources say the woman is now alleging she was coerced into the relationship with the chief. His nephew, who was with the couple on numerous occasions, scoffed at the notion.
“I have intimate, detailed knowledge and I can tell you right now, it was an affair and it was two people that cared about each other,” he said.
James Nice has declined to comment.
Joseph Nice said his once close relationship with his uncle is now “fractured.” He said he expects to be exonerated from his criminal case.
He’s also in recovery after being in drug rehab earlier this year, and his business is shuttered. He concedes his personal life is a “struggle” but that he's "in a good place."
“He’s my uncle. I’m disappointed. I’m sure he is. I’m sure a lot of people are,” he said. “My uncle made mistakes. I made mistakes. We both said things that we later regretted. But that’s life.”