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Yellow Springs Police find internal misconduct

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An internal Yellow Springs Police investigation last week found that one of its officers exhibited two counts of improper conduct during an encounter with a villager on Nov. 5. The report finds that Sergeant Naomi Penrod acted improperly when during a peace officer call she forcibly took a video camera from a disabled resident and behaved in a hostile manner without cause. The findings, based solely on Yellow Springs police policy, were released by Interim Police Chief David Hale on Tuesday. 

The department has not yet completed its deliberation process with Village Manager Patti Bates and Village Solicitor Chris Conard about what disciplinary action to take regarding the misconduct. As the misconduct is Penrod’s first offense in her seven years with the YSPD, according to policy, the first offense could result in “instruction and cautioning.” Hostility without cause, a type II offense or “willful disregard of department rules (inefficiency/neglect of duty/failure of good behavior…),” could result in instruction and a 1–3-day unpaid suspension.  

The investigation followed a complaint filed Nov. 6 by local resident Athena Fannin, whose landlord had called for peace officer assistance to deliver notice of property rights to the home she leases at 430 Allen St. The investigation included interviews with Fannin, her home health aide and another witness who was at the house, as well as officers who were at the scene, Tom Sexton, Mark Charles (officer in training), and Sergeant Penrod. According to the interviews in the report, three Yellow Springs officers responded to the call, including Sergeant Penrod, who engaged in a verbal altercation with Fannin over whether the officers were acting appropriately by checking Fannin’s license plates without what she believed was just cause.

Because Fannin didn’t think the behavior was appropriate, she began video recording their actions. According to Penrod’s statement in the report, Penrod did not want her face on camera because she feared compromising investigations with outside law enforcement agencies. She instructed Fannin to stop recording, allegedly telling her she could be arrested. When Fannin refused, Penrod engaged in what was variably described as a five- to 30-second physical struggle with Fannin and took the camera from her. 

Fannin filed a complaint with the Village police that focused on five essential points, including the officers’ conduct in running plates without just cause, Penrod’s forcible removal of the camera from her possession, threatening her with arrest if she did not stop recording, Penrod’s hostility without cause, and disparaging statements that Penrod allegedly made toward Fannin. 

The department found Sergeant Penrod guilty of only points two and four. According to Hale, police have authority to check license plates without cause at any time, and regarding this incident, police were checking plates to get information about a resident they were sent to interact with. The department found insufficient evidence that Penrod made disparaging comments about the resident per se, and also found that the threats of arrest were handled appropriately due to Fannin’s allegedly “agitated” state. 

The Village served Sergeant Penrod, who has been with YSPD since 2007, the report this week. She has the right to a predisciplinary hearing with witnesses of her choosing, and following that event, the Village would consider the appropriate disciplinary action to take, Hale said. 

Beyond internal matters, Fannin said this week that she would like criminal charges to be filed against the sergeant, but she has not yet decided how she will pursue that goal. According to Hale, Fannin has the right to request an independent investigation by the Xenia prosecutor, who would review the incident again using the Ohio Revised Code as the standard. 

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Yellow Springs Police find internal misconduct

by Lauren Heaton