EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — When you talk to Acting East Cleveland Police Chief Brian Gerhard, several things become clear, including his passion for the city.
Gerhard was born and raised in East Cleveland and has a member of the police force since 1995. He has a vision for where he wants the department to head.
"I want it to feel safe here. I don't want perspective officers to be afraid to apply here, we are not a corrupt police department, we have a couple city individuals who are quick to call the media and say the police department's broken, well, yeah, on paper it looks like it is," Gerhard said during a one-on-one interview on Wednesday.
Mayor Brandon L. King plans to swear Gerhard in as chief Friday at City Hall as his longtime, Scott Gardner, faces multiple corruption charges. Gardner was suspended following his indictment in August, and King has not made his final fate official.
The reality of what Gerhard inherits is clear: Besides Gardner, eight current or former officers are facing legal troubles of their own.
Just this week, two more officers and two officers that had already faced indictment were charged, accused of ramming into cars during pursuits and then assaulting the people inside.
Acutely aware of the situation and the optics, Gerhard held a full staff meeting that included King for two hours on Wednesday.
"I just pretty much told the guys we're going to get back to discipline, you're going to be respectful to the public, the car chases I'm going to put a limit on, I know a lot of people think the car chases look fun in the movies, but it's not fun when someone gets killed, it's not fun when a car gets wrecked," Gerhard said.
Gerhard says that doesn't mean an elimination of chases, but he says there's enough technology out there to help catch someone with tinted windows who runs a red light for example, but they would still pursue for serious offenses like a car jacking.
As for the future of the former officers facing charges, here's where the acting chief stands.
"The officers that were indicted, they were excellent at one time, they just lost their way somewhere, and granted because you're indicted doesn't mean you're convicted, so these guys do have due process and their day in court, it's just right now it's a very bad look for the city," Gerhard said.
- 2 East Cleveland police officers indicted, suspended following alleged assaults
- East Cleveland officer pleads not guilty on several charges in court
- East Cleveland police officer Brian Stoll pleads not guilty to theft in office, other charges
- Bond set for former East Cleveland police officers indicted on corruption charges
- Timeline of the recent controversies involving the East Cleveland Police Department