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Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman carried police badge and officer ID that were stolen and later recovered: Mark Naymik Reports

Former Metroparks Police Chief Katherine Dolan gifted badge to him; ID allowed him to access police headquarters, park system says.

CLEVELAND — Brian Zimmerman is chief of the Cleveland Metroparks, the highly regarded 24,000-acre park system funded largely by taxpayers that interconnects some 49 Northeast Ohio communities.

He is not the park system’s chief of police.

But Zimmerman carried a police badge that identified him as “Cleveland Metroparks Chief – CEO.” He displayed it in a special wallet that also held a police identification card reading “duly authorized law enforcement officer for the State of Ohio.”

That is until his badge and ID – along two $50 bills -- went missing sometime in October.

The wallet and badge were recovered on October 28, when a man called park police to report he found items near the corner of Fulton & Walton Avenues in Cleveland, about 2 miles from where Zimmerman works.

Zimmerman’s missing badge and ID sparked drama at park headquarters, in part because the news spread outside the park system, according to multiple sources. A citizen gadfly even raised the issue during a recent board meeting.

The Metroparks told 3News Zimmerman’s badge and ID were not lost-- but stolen from his vehicle.

It’s unclear exactly when it was stolen or if his vehicle was damaged during the theft because Zimmerman – who was hired in 2010 -- did not file a report with park police.

When the badge and ID were found, Zimmerman gave a statement to park police that he wasn’t sure when it went missing. He said he had not seen it in a couple of weeks. His statement, obtained through a public records request, is not dated. (The Metroparks said Zimmerman’s statement was taken on November 1.)

The Metroparks told 3News in a statement the badge was gifted to him in 2018 by former Metroparks Police Chief Katherine Dolan, who left the park system in September to join the Beachwood Police Department, where she has since become chief. Kelly Stillman, Beachwood’s former police chief, is now the park system’s interim chief.

“The CEO badge is ceremonial and was given to him as a gift, wasn’t worn and serves no professional purpose and does not have a Cleveland Metroparks Police seal or badge number,” the Metroparks said.

The ID card, the statement continued, was used by essential personnel, including IT, custodial and human resources, to access the police headquarters.

“You are correct that the standard template on the ID cards printed by Cleveland Metroparks Police Department stated every employee as an officer, but it also clearly stated that Brian is CEO as part of the administration and the card serves no function other than electronic door access into Cleveland Metroparks’ facility,” the statement said. “The card has been reissued for non-police employees that utilize the access card to replace reference to ‘officer’ with ‘essential workforce.’

Law enforcement agencies have been known to give out ceremonial badges to family members and friends, but the practice has faded in recent years over security concerns.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office does not provide badges to any employees, including prosecutors.

Lexi Giering, a spokeswoman for the office, said: “We do not provide courtesy badges to our employees. However, we do give “Junior Prosecutor” badges (made of plastic) to children at community events. They seem to be a big hit with the kids!”

The story was updated to reflect the correct wording on the Zimmerman's badge.

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