We found 85,000 cops who’ve been investigated for misconduct. Now you can read their records.

At least 85,000 law enforcement officers across the USA have been investigated or disciplined for misconduct over the past decade, an investigation by USA TODAY Network found.

Officers have beaten members of the public, planted evidence and used their badges to harass women. They have lied, stolen, dealt drugs, driven drunk and abused their spouses.

Despite their role as public servants, the men and women who swear an oath to keep communities safe can generally avoid public scrutiny for their misdeeds.

The records of their misconduct are filed away, rarely seen by anyone outside their departments. Police unions and their political allies have worked to put special protections in place ensuring some records are shielded from public view, or even destroyed.

Reporters from USA TODAY, its 100-plus affiliated newsrooms and the nonprofit Invisible Institute in Chicago have spent more than a year creating the biggest collection of police misconduct records.

Obtained from thousands of state agencies, prosecutors, police departments and sheriffs, the records detail at least 200,000 incidents of alleged misconduct, much of it previously unreported. The records obtained include more than 110,000 internal affairs investigations by hundreds of individual departments and more than 30,000 officers who were decertified by 44 state oversight agencies.

Search for police discipline records
USA TODAY Network has gathered discipline and accountability records on more than 85,000 law enforcement officers and has started releasing them to the public. The first collection published is a list of more than 30,000 officers who have been decertified, essentially banned from the profession, in 44 states. Search our exclusive database by officer, department or state.

Among the findings:

  • Most misconduct involves routine infractions, but the records reveal tens of thousands of cases of serious misconduct and abuse. They include 22,924 investigations of officers using excessive force, 3,145 allegations of rape, child molestation and other sexual misconduct and 2,307 cases of domestic violence by officers.
  • Dishonesty is a frequent problem. The records document at least 2,227 instances of perjury, tampering with evidence or witnesses or falsifying reports. There were 418 reports of officers obstructing investigations, most often when they or someone they knew were targets.
  • Less than 10% of officers in most police forces get investigated for misconduct. Yet some officers are consistently under investigation. Nearly 2,500 have been investigated on 10 or more charges. Twenty faced 100 or more allegations yet kept their badge for years.

The level of oversight varies widely from state to state. Georgia and Florida decertified thousands of police officers for everything from crimes to questions about their fitness to serve; other states banned almost none.

Search the database: Exclusive USA TODAY list of decertified officers and their records

Tarnished Brass: Fired for a felony, again for perjury. Meet the new police chief.

That includes Maryland, home to the Baltimore Police Department, which regularly has been in the news for criminal behavior by police. Over nearly a decade, Maryland revoked the certifications of just four officers.

Tamika Staton leaves a message at a memorial in the middle of the road where teenager Michael Brown died after being shot by a police officer in 2014 in Ferguson, Mo., an incident that sparked investigations, protests and a nationwide discussion about policing.

Show caption Tamika Staton leaves a message at a memorial in the middle of the road where teenager Michael Brown died after being shot by a police…
Scott Olson, Getty Images
We’re making those records public

We’re making those records public

The records USA TODAY and its partners gathered include tens of thousands of internal investigations, lawsuit settlements and secret separation deals.

They include names of at least 5,000 police officers whose credibility as witnesses has been called into question. These officers have been placed on Brady lists, created to track officers whose actions must be disclosed to defendants if their testimony is relied upon to prosecute someone.

USA TODAY plans to publish many of those records to give the public an opportunity to examine their police department and the broader issue of police misconduct, as well as to help identify decertified officers who continue to work in law enforcement.

Seth Stoughton, who worked as a police officer for five years and teaches law at the University of South Carolina, said expanding public access to those kinds of records is critical to keep good cops employed and bad cops unemployed.

“No one is in a position to assess whether an officer candidate can do the job well and the way that we expect the job to be done better than the officer’s former employer,” Stoughton said.

“Officers are public servants. They police in our name,” he said. There is a “strong public interest in identifying how officers are using their public authority.”

Dan Hils, president of the Cincinnati Police Department’s branch of the Fraternal Order of Policemen union, said people should consider there are more than 750,000 law enforcement officers in the country when looking at individual misconduct data.

“The scrutiny is way tighter on police officers than most folks, and that’s why sometimes you see high numbers of misconduct cases,” Hils said. “But I believe that policemen tend to be more honest and more trustworthy than the average citizen.”

Hils said he has no issue with USA TODAY publishing public records of conduct, saying it is the news media’s “right and responsibility to investigate police and the authority of government. You’re supposed to be a watchdog.”

The first set of records USA TODAY is releasing is an exclusive nationwide database of about 30,000 people whom state governments banned from the profession by revoking their certification to be law enforcement officers.

For years, a private police organization has assembled such a list from more than 40 states and encourages police agencies to screen new hires. The list is kept secret from anyone outside law enforcement.

USA TODAY obtained the names of banned officers from 44 states by filing requests under state sunshine laws.

The information includes the officers’ names, the department they  worked for when the state revoked their certification and – in most cases – the reasons why.

The list is incomplete because of the absence of records from states such as California, which has the largest number of law enforcement officers in the USA.

Bringing important facts to policing debate

Bringing important facts to policing debate

USA TODAY’s collection of police misconduct records comes amid a nationwide debate over law enforcement tactics, including concern that some officers or agencies unfairly target minorities.

A series of killings of black people by police over the past five years in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Chicago, Sacramento, California, and elsewhere have sparked unrest and a reckoning that put pressure on cities and mayors to crack down on misconduct and abuses.

The Trump administration has backed away from more than a decade of Justice Department investigations and court actions against police departments it determined were deeply biased or corrupt.

In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department would leave policing the police to local authorities, saying federal investigations hurt crime fighting.

Laurie Robinson, co-chair of the 2014 White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing, said transparency about police conduct is critical to trust between police and residents.

“It’s about the people who you have hired to protect you,” she said. “Traditionally, we would say for sure that policing has not been a transparent entity in the U.S. Transparency is just a very key step along the way to repairing our relationships.”

Help us investigate

Help us investigate

The number of police agencies and officers in the USA is so large that the blind spots are vast. We need your help.

Though the records USA TODAY Network gathered are probably the most expansive ever collected, there is much more to be added. The collection includes several types of statewide data, but most misconduct is documented by individual departments.

Journalists obtained records from more than 700 law enforcement agencies, but the records are not complete for all of those agencies, and there are more than 18,000 police forces across the USA. The records requests were focused largely on the biggest 100 police agencies as well as clusters of smaller departments in surrounding areas, partly to examine movement of officers between departments in regions.

USA TODAY aims to identify other media organizations willing to partner in gathering new records and sharing documents they’ve already gathered. The Invisible Institute, a journalism nonprofit in Chicago focused on police accountability, has done so for more than a year and contributed records from dozens of police departments.

Reporters need help getting documents – and other kinds of tips – from the public, watchdog groups, researchers and even officers and prosecutors themselves.

If you have access to citizen complaints about police, internal affairs investigation records, secret settlement deals between agencies and departing officers or anything that sheds light on how agencies police their officers, we want to hear from you.

Contributing: James Pilcher and Eric Litke.


The team behind this investigation

REPORTING AND ANALYSIS: Mark Nichols, Eric Litke, James Pilcher, Aaron Hegarty, Andrew Ford, Brett Kelman, John Kelly, Matt Wynn, Steve Reilly, Megan Cassidy, Ryan Martin, Jonathan Anderson, Andrew Wolfson, Bethany Bruner, Benjamin Lanka, Gabriella Novello, Mark Hannan

FROM THE INVISIBLE INSTITUTE: Sam Stecklow, Andrew Fan, Bocar Ba

EDITING: Chris Davis, John Kelly, Brad Heath

GRAPHICS AND ILLUSTRATIONS: Jim Sergent, Karl Gelles

PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY: Phil Didion, Christopher Powers, David Hamlin, Robert Lindeman

DIGITAL PRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT: Spencer Holladay, Annette Meade, Craig Johnson, Ryan Marx, Chris Amico, Josh Miller

SOCIAL MEDIA, ENGAGEMENT AND PROMOTION: Anne Godlasky, Alia Dastagir

Originally Published 9:15 p.m. EDT Apr. 24, 2019

Updated 7:33 a.m. EDT May 23, 2019

Fired for a felony, again for perjury. Meet the new police chief.

Police officers who committed misconduct not only kept their badges but became police chiefs, a USA TODAY Network investigation found.

9:15 p.m. EDT Apr. 24, 2019

AMSTERDAM, Ohio – In the days after they ousted their police chief, the leaders of this town realized that the real mess he’d made wasn’t the jumble of trash and misplaced evidence that cluttered his office. It was what was buried underneath.

David Cimperman

David Cimperman
Handout

There they found forms featuring the mayor’s apparently forged signature that David Cimperman used to add more than 30 officers to the town’s police roster – one for every 16 residents. Many never did any paid police work for the town, logging hours instead for a private security business that state investigators say Cimperman ran on the side. He tried to outfit them with high-end radios. The riot gear and other surplus military equipment he bought with taxpayer money are missing.

What they didn’t find was evidence that the police force built out of fear of being without help in an emergency did much actual police work.

Even now, the people who hired Cimperman don’t know the depth of what went wrong in the part-time police force of this small town in the hills of northeastern Ohio. The new chief says he’s consulted with state criminal investigators to help figure it out.

What they know is that they could have prevented it all with a single phone call. They hired a chief without knowing he’d been fired for perjury, quit a job as his bosses started investigating missing police equipment and was charged with a felony for tampering with police radios to make untraceable phone calls.

“That’s just it. No one calls me,” says one of his former bosses, Michael Goodwin, the chief of police in nearby New Philadelphia.

Cimperman’s journey from disgraced police officer to police chief is a surprisingly common one, a USA TODAY Network investigation  found.

Misconduct that might disqualify someone from being hired as a rookie cop hasn’t stopped officers from taking the top jobs at law enforcement agencies throughout the USA.

Many ended up running small forces in places without the inclination to do basic background checks or without the wherewithal to penetrate the secretive and haphazard systems that can hide police misconduct even from the police.

“I blame myself, I really do,” Amsterdam Mayor Gary Pepperling says of his former police chief. “He really looked good on paper, and I’m a trusting guy. I didn’t really check.

“To be honest,” he says, “I hope to see him behind bars.”

Disgraced officer becomes police chief. It happens more than you think.
David Cimperman was fired from his job as a police officer twice: once after pleading no-contest to a felony, once for perjury. Then he landed a job as a police chief.
USA TODAY
The face of law enforcement

The face of law enforcement

Police forces – and the officers they employ – have come under intense public scrutiny in recent years after a succession of high-profile scandals including questionable shootings and commanders who have themselves become criminals. The USA TODAY Network gathered misconduct records from hundreds of police departments and state licensing boards in nearly every state to shed light on the profession, amassing one of the largest stores of information on police wrongdoing.

Police chiefs occupy a unique place in law enforcement. The job can be less glamorous than the title makes it seem – some chiefs work part-time, for minimum-wage or both. Chiefs hold a position of public trust that makes them the face of law enforcement and puts them in command of other officers. If they can outrun misconduct, experts say, imagine what can happen among the lower-ranking officers they employ.

“Whether it’s entirely fair or not, a police chief or sheriff is really considered a role model for the community,” says Arizona State University criminology and criminal justice professor Michael Scott, a former police chief.  “If it’s understood the chief has violated the law … it more or less is a signal to the officers or deputies that you don’t have to be any better.”

The USA TODAY Network identified 32 people who became police chiefs or sheriffs despite a finding of serious misconduct, usually at another department. At least eight of them were found guilty of a crime. Others amassed records of domestic violence, improperly withholding evidence, falsifying records or other conduct that could impact the public they swore to serve.

In North Dakota, officials picked as their sheriff a man who’d led his co-workers on a 100 mph chase after drinking. A dispatcher summoned him to assist in his own pursuit. In Georgia, an officer fired from the state police after investigators found he’d carried out numerous on-duty affairs and lied about it landed a job as a small-town chief. A Washington trooper who was convicted of rendering criminal assistance in a case involving his son found work leading a small department in that state.

Those chiefs almost certainly represent only a small glimpse at the larger issue, because the records reporters were able to examine cover a small fraction of U.S. law enforcement agencies.

They are high-ranking examples of how easy it can be for police officers in the USA to escape records of misconduct when departments big and small have struggled to attract recruits and information about how police officers carry out their jobs remains largely scattered in files held by thousands of different agencies.

What happens when they do is that places like Amsterdam, Ohio – a struggling former steel town in the hills west of Pittsburgh where the boarded-up businesses outnumber the open ones – end up with police chiefs like David Cimperman.

'He just seemed to break everything’

‘He just seemed to break everything’

Cimperman had been a policeman in the U.S. Army and the low-income housing projects of Cleveland. In the early 1990s, he settled into a quieter job in New Philadelphia, a small city about 90 miles away.

The USA TODAY Network left Cimperman repeated emails and voicemails and visited his home in Akron. All went unanswered.

Instead, reporters documented his career through dozens of interviews and hundreds of documents, some of which the USA TODAY Network sued to obtain. The picture they paint isn’t all bad. He rescued a toddler from a truck that had driven into a lake while off-duty in 2013. Former co-workers speak of his loyalty and work ethic.

A police cruiser flipped after David Cimperman crashed during a high-speed chase.

A police cruiser flipped after David Cimperman crashed during a high-speed chase.
Handout

Cimperman was on the job for less than a year before his bosses in New Philadelphia started accumulating a file that would eventually overflow a large filing box. One of its first entries: He left the door of his cruiser open after work, his loaded shotgun still on the seat.

The next year, the mayor tried to fire him for a 115 mph chase over hilly country roads that ended with his cruiser upside-down in a creek.

Cimperman started the chase because he saw a motorcyclist who hadn’t lowered the visor on his helmet, a minor infraction. He continued the pursuit even after a supervisor recommended that he break it off, because he said later he couldn’t get close enough to read the motorcycle’s license plate.

After about 15 miles, the motorcyclist darted into a park and across a wooden footbridge that was only 3 feet wide, Cimperman speeding close behind in the department’s new cruiser. The driver escaped (officers found him later), and Cimperman ended up in the creek. He shot out a window of the cruiser to escape. The mayor fumed that Cimperman should be fired but settled for a 10-day suspension.

New Philadelphia Police Chief Michael Goodwin sits down to speak about Officer Cimperman and his history in the city.

New Philadelphia Police Chief Michael Goodwin sits down to speak about Officer Cimperman and his history in the city.
Phil Didion, The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY Network

“He just seemed to break everything he touched,” Goodwin, the city’s police chief, says.

In 2001, the city did fire Cimperman after he pleaded no-contest to a felony charge of unauthorized use of telecommunications property. State investigators found that he’d paid a company to reprogram three of his own radios to work on the city’s police radio network, something state and federal laws forbid.

The head of the company that did the work, Andy Brinkley, says Cimperman told him the radios were for the department, but he paid for it by sending a package of cash by UPS, which Brinkley says was “unique.”

Goodwin says the radios weren’t for police work. He says Cimperman wanted to make untraceable calls using the city’s radio network, though officials never figured out why.

Whatever the reason, it came at a cost. Records from the county prosecutor show that every time Cimperman used the radios to make calls, they tied up the communication network and blocked New Philadelphia residents’ 911 emergency calls.

Cimperman was sentenced to a year of probation, and prosecutors agreed to have the case sealed, a step they said they routinely take for people who don’t have a criminal record. A judge unsealed the records last year after the USA TODAY Network sued.

The state briefly pulled Cimperman’s license to be a police officer over the episode, but reinstated it a few months later. Ordinarily, a felony record would be career-ending because the state would automatically revoke his license, but Cimperman’s plea let him avoid a felony record and avoid the automatic loss of his certification. The court’s decision to keep the case sealed made it harder for future employers to find.

It was enough for the city to fire him. The city’s termination letter cited Cimperman’s criminal record and other actions his bosses said were “tantamount to again being untruthful.”

Five months later, labor arbitrator Bruce McIntosh put him back on the force, saying he deserved to be suspended but not fired. McIntosh said he couldn’t remember the case.

Two weeks later, the city fired Cimperman again, this time for perjury.

The year before, Cimperman had forced his way into the basement of a locked rental house, something that normally requires a search warrant. He said afterward that he had seen signs of a burglary outside the house, which could justify a warrantless entry. He found equipment for growing marijuana inside.

Search for police discipline records
USA TODAY Network has gathered discipline and accountability records on more than 85,000 law enforcement officers and has started releasing them to the public. The first collection published is a list of more than 30,000 officers who have been decertified, essentially banned from the profession, in 44 states. Search our exclusive database by officer, department or state.

The county went to court to seize the house and brought drug charges against its owner. It dropped both cases after Cimperman testified about how he had found the equipment.

The prosecutor running the case, David Hipp, told the local newspaper, The Times Reporter, that Cimperman gave “perjured testimony” during the hearing. He says he no longer remembers the details of the case but at the time left no doubt about why it collapsed.

“It is my conclusion that Mr. Cimperman was not truthful,” Hipp told the judge in the case, according to the newspaper. “This is the only time I’ve seen this in 27 years of prosecuting cases.”

Still, a different mediator put Cimperman back on the force. David Pincus wrote in his decision that there were signs burglars might have entered the building, so Cimperman had the authority to go inside as he claimed in court.

He returned to work, telling his colleagues in a letter that he was doing “many things to set things right” and wanted “a fresh start with everyone in New Philadelphia.”

David Cimperman's Facebook post

David Cimperman’s Facebook post
Facebook

More issues followed: Officials said he violated the department’s time-off policy, failed to turn in traffic tickets, drove recklessly and didn’t show up to the trial of an accused sex offender (who was eventually convicted).

Goodwin says he launched an investigation into Cimperman over “irregularities in the inventory” of surplus equipment the military had donated to the department through a federal program. Cimperman left the department in 2012, when, according to Goodwin, the department gave him a choice: retire or face possible prosecution.

In the years that followed, Cimperman stitched together something like a full-time career from part-time police jobs. In one Facebook post in 2014, he boasted of working 24 hours straight between his jobs, plus  three-and-a-half hours of driving to get from one to another. One of his friends replied with a picture of RoboCop.

Some departments limit the number of hours an officer can work in a day, in part because studies have linked fatigue to increased civilian complaints and other risks.

Cimperman also found work with the state Lottery Commission, investigating problems with slot machines at the same time he held those part-time police jobs. He got into trouble there, too, and was disciplined for following a female gaming mechanic “in a way that went beyond a normal work relationship” and using a shower reserved for casino performers.

In 2016, lottery officials put him on leave for not showing up to work. He quit and said he’d found a new job.

Amsterdam, Ohio.

Amsterdam, Ohio.
Phil Didion, The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY Network
A prestigious new title

A prestigious new title

That new job came with a more prestigious title: chief of police.

In 2015, Pepperling, Amsterdam’s mayor, hired him to run what was essentially a one-man police force, sometimes with help from a few other part-timers, in this town of nearly 500 residents and zero stoplights about 100 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Over two decades, the town’s population has shrunk by about a quarter as nearby steel mills and coal mines shut down. The only two business left open in its small center are a diner and a convenience store. There’s little in the way of crime, but the junction of two state highways can draw drug traffic and what Pepperling calls “unsavory elements.”

Amsterdam, Ohio's Mayor, Gary Pepperling, speaks about his regret in hiring Officer Cimperman.

Amsterdam, Ohio’s Mayor, Gary Pepperling, speaks about his regret in hiring Officer Cimperman.
Phil Didion

Although most towns this size don’t bother with their own police force, Amsterdam sits on the border of two counties. Locals worried that without their own officers, help would be too far away in an emergency.

When Amsterdam’s previous chief left, Pepperling scrambled to find someone to take a job that came with a lofty title and lousy benefits: 20 hours a week at minimum-wage.

“We needed a police officer, bad,” Pepperling says.

To a hard-up town, a longtime cop such as Cimperman “looked good on paper,” he says.

Pepperling called the people Cimperman listed as references but admits he didn’t do a thorough background check, or even much of a Google search before giving him the job. Nobody called his old bosses.

Pepperling says that after the calls to references, he and other town officials interviewed Cimperman and gave him a badge.

Such lapses aren’t unusual. The USA TODAY Network found that many departments – especially small ones – lack the wherewithal to dig into the pasts of prospective police chiefs or simply had so few candidates that they couldn’t afford to care.

Thousands of communities are served by such tiny departments. At the federal government’s last count, in 2008, half of U.S. police forces had 10 officers or fewer. In a wide-ranging assessment of American policing three years ago, President Barack Obama’s administration warned that such small forces intensify problems of “organizational quality control.”

Even big cities such as Baltimore, Detroit and Memphis have struggled to attract enough qualified recruits to fill out their police forces, a challenge magnified in small towns that can’t match the pay and perks of bigger departments.

Some smaller communities ended up with chiefs such as Richard Pacheco, who landed several top police jobs at small Missouri departments and runs campus safety at a Kansas college despite the fact that he was charged with a felony after yanking a man out of his car at gunpoint while he was off-duty because he thought the man was driving drunk. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of giving false alarm, his second criminal conviction. He lost his license to be a police officer in Kansas for misconduct and had been the subject of three restraining orders. In one, his then-fiancee said he threatened to shoot her.

His new bosses say they were unaware of his record until reporters contacted them.

Experts say the system for tracking police misconduct is so fragmented that it’s easy for officers and even chiefs to escape such a record. Though most states have statewide agencies that license police officers – and can pull their licenses for the most serious types of misconduct – much of the information about how a police officer has performed is stored in the personnel records of individual departments.

“With a highly decentralized system like we have in this country, we simply have got to get a better grip on misconduct so that people who don’t belong in the profession don’t get to stay in it by virtue of moving around,” says David Harris, an expert on police misconduct and a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Christopher Chavis was fired from the Georgia state police in 2008 and lost his license to be a police officer for carrying out multiple affairs while on the job.

State investigators concluded he lied to them, though Chavis denies that.

The decision to revoke Chavis’ license was overturned on appeal, and Chavis kept his badge. In 2014, he landed a new job running the small police department in Adrian, population 645.

Adrian Mayor Kim Adams says Chavis disclosed the incidents before being hired and had been “wonderful” and “100% honest” in his time there. The City Council asked Chavis to resign in October over a series of “small reasons,” including not patrolling enough, Adams says.

Experts say it’s especially alarming when officials find out about a prospective chief’s record of misconduct and hire him anyway, given the possible consequences.

“I’m surprised those kinds of things would be uncovered during that process and yet a person would still be chosen to lead an organization,” says Charles H. Ramsey, the former Philadelphia police commissioner, who helped lead a White House effort in 2014 to identify problems in modern policing. “That’s the price you pay if you take that attitude.”

About an hour from Amsterdam, in Kirkersville, Ohio, the new police chief died from a drug overdose two months after starting the job. Officials knew before they hired him that James Hughes had pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct over an off-duty incident at a fast-food restaurant, the town’s law director told The Newark Advocate. It was unclear whether officials knew he’d been the subject of multiple investigations in his previous job, as a sheriff’s deputy. Kirkersville’s mayor, Terry Ashcraft, did not respond to questions about the former chief.

Drugs and packaging found near Hughes’ body bore markings from a police evidence room, says Reynoldsburg Police Lt. Ron Wright, who investigated his death.

A Potemkin police force

A Potemkin police force

Three years after he hired him, Pepperling ousted Cimperman as Amsterdam’s police chief. By then, he says, Cimperman wasn’t showing up to work. He’d seen other signs of problems, including a state homeland security investigator who had come by to look into whether the chief was running a security business on the side.

Still, he says, officials weren’t prepared for the mess they found once their chief was finally gone.

“It took us weeks to clean it out,” says Amsterdam Police Chief Todd Walker, who had been the town’s chief before Cimperman arrived and took the job again after he left.

Amsterdam, Ohio Police Chief Todd Walker gives a tour of former Officer Cimperman's station.

Amsterdam, Ohio Police Chief Todd Walker gives a tour of former Officer Cimperman’s station.
Phil Didion, The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY Network

An internal report obtained by the USA TODAY Network shows photos of a bag of marijuana and seized drivers’ licenses found in the office but never returned or stored properly. That report was prepared for the mayor by an officer whom Cimperman had fired. Walker says he even found an unidentified handgun in the trunk of the town’s police cruiser.

Trash covered the town’s dispatch computer, which Cimperman was supposed to use to track the department’s activity.

Though Amsterdam wanted its own police force to make sure someone was close-by in an emergency, county dispatch records show the town’s officers signaled that they were on duty only 72 times in the years Cimperman was in charge, about once every two weeks. Some of those were for only an hour at a time.

“The town had a part-time department that wasn’t working for them,” says Rob Herrington, director of Jefferson County’s 911 system.

Documents shared by Amsterdam mayor

Documents shared by Amsterdam mayor
Amsterdam Police Department

Cimperman seemed to be busy with other things, including building the Amsterdam Police Department into what appeared, on paper, to be something far more formidable than the one-man force the town had in mind.

He signed officers on to the town roster throughout 2015 and 2016, even if they never worked there or got paid. The department’s roster swelled to 37 names, Walker says. More than half of them were former co-workers of Cimperman’s from other police departments, state records show. Others had little experience as police officers.

Few did any work for the town. Being on the roster let them maintain their state licenses to be police officers even if they were technically out of work. And it made it easier for them to take jobs doing security work, and for higher pay, because they could call themselves off-duty cops. Cimperman also did private security work, including during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to posts he made on Facebook.

Multiple Amsterdam officers told state investigators that Cimperman hired them out as security guards through a business called APD Security – a play on Amsterdam Police Department – says Brandon Gardner, director of enforcement and outreach for the Ohio Department of Homeland Security, which oversees private security firms. The state’s lead investigator, James Borntrager, says he visited Cimperman’s office in 2017 and saw stacks of “security guard” patches and blank forms for adding officers to the town’s roster that included copies of the mayor’s signature.

Gardner says the arrangement exploits a loophole that exempts police officers from the licensing rules that govern other private security guards. That meant Cimperman could “get these guys on his roster, then charge an increased fee for their services, telling their client they are having off-duty officers work.”

Former Amsterdam officer Louis Valdez says he and Cimperman worked several of the same off-duty details for APD Security. Valdez says he was paid in cash for the jobs by a different officer who he thought ran the security firm but acknowledged that he never did any work for the town and was on the roster only to qualify for off-duty work elsewhere. “I thought it was a legitimate business,” he says.

Pepperling says Cimperman “was running an off-duty security firm out of this office and using our town as a front.”

How they got on the roster is another story. Ordinarily, the town’s mayor would have to sign off on a request to add a new officer, and records show Pepperling’s signature appears on 35 forms submitted to state authorities.

Copies of Mayor Pepperling's signature on hiring documents that he says were forged.

Copies of Mayor Pepperling’s signature on hiring documents that he says were forged.
Amsterdam Police Department

Pepperling says he signed for no more than five of them. The rest, he insists, were forged.

There are signs Cimperman sought to use the town to outfit the officers he was hiring out. He wrote to other departments asking for spare or unused equipment, even though the county and town had provided relatively new gear in the past five years, Amsterdam police records show. He tried to get county and state officials to let him activate 30 other radios, even though he never had more than two or three other officers helping him patrol the town.

Walker can’t find thousands of dollars worth of equipment, including riot gear and even a sweater he bought from a state surplus-equipment program. This year, Ohio kicked Amsterdam out of the program because bills for the gear went unpaid. “It’s amazing,” Walker says. “This never ends.”

Walker and his officers are building a case against Cimperman for allegedly using his position as chief in Amsterdam to defraud local, state or even federal agencies. Walker says he is considering asking state investigators for help.

One more check

One more check

After all that, Cimperman hasn’t hung up his badge.

Within days of his departure from Amsterdam, he ended up on the roster of another small town less than 20 miles away, first as a volunteer auxiliary officer and later as a paid part-timer.

His new boss is Chief Stacy McGrath. She took over the department in Bloomingdale – a town so tiny police park their one cruiser on a side street each night – after volunteering as a police officer in two other small towns. She had been on the rolls in Amsterdam as a “special officer,” one of the dozens of names Cimperman added.

McGrath appointment history

McGrath appointment history
Ohio Attorney General’s Office

McGrath started her own security company in 2018 after she became chief, says Gardner, the homeland security official. She added Cimperman to the rolls of her department and says she pays him for three to five hours of police work each week.

“This is how we help each other because we don’t know where to go,” McGrath says. “We have nowhere to work. We have no way to pay our bills because we don’t know where to work.”

Bloomingdale Mayor David Gaffney says the town’s lawyer conducted a background check on Cimperman, including contacting other departments, and “those things came back positive.”

Bloomingdale’s law director, Kristopher Haught, says the check he conducted was somewhat less thorough: He submitted a request for a criminal background check, which wouldn’t have turned up the then-sealed criminal file or any of the other debris spilling out of Cimperman’s past. So once again, he had a badge.

Source: We found 85,000 cops who’ve been investigated for misconduct. Now you can read their records.

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