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Published: Tuesday, 9/17/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Washington Township officer put on paid leave

Moves taken after video of traffic stop goes viral

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Washington Township police officer is on administrative leave after a videotaped traffic stop was posted online and went viral.

Officer Eric Hart is being paid while on leave, Washington Township police Chief Christopher Kaiser said. Officer Hart has worked part-time for the department for about two years.

“He’s not in trouble, but to keep things aboveboard, we put him on administrative leave until an internal investigation is fully complete,” the chief said. “I’m not saying he did anything wrong, but we’re trying to show we’re not trying to sweep this under the rug or cover it up.”

In the four-minute, 50-second video, a woman shouts at Officer Hart that he is harassing people. The woman, who screams and shouts throughout the encounter, also claims Officer Hart smashed her cell phone when she tried to call 911.

In a police report, Officer Hart wrote he was working Sunday afternoon when he stopped a vehicle at 166 Pine Ridge St., in Raintree Village, for having an “altered” license registration sticker.

During the stop, a man, later identified as Aaron Tatkowski, who was in another vehicle, stopped and got out of his truck, and reportedly told Officer Hart, “I’m [expletive] sick of you cops. I’m [expletive] sick of you harassing people for no reason.”

Officer Hart wrote in the report that he ordered Mr. Tatkowski to get back; when he allegedly refused, the officer said he pointed his stun gun at Mr. Tatkowski, who yelled for spectators to videotape the encounter. The passenger from the first vehicle, Cassandra Meyers, got out of the vehicle and approached the officer, who had Mr. Tatkowski handcuffed on the ground.

The officer wrote he had his gun out and pointed through open vehicle doors.

Ms. Meyers was also put on the ground and struggled with the officer until she was handcuffed, the report states.

A witness called 911 to request a Toledo police crew for an “officer in distress.” Toward the end of the video, Officer Hart approaches the man, takes his phone, and tosses it aside, saying Toledo police are on the way.

Officer Hart then told the spectators to leave — in the report, he writes that ordering them to leave is for their safety.

“You don’t need witnesses?” asked one witness.

“It’s on camera, what does it matter?” Officer Hart responds.

Chief Kaiser did not have a timeline for the internal inquiry. He said he saw the video Monday and, “We started looking into it.”

Officer Hart also works for Toledo Public Schools as a school resource officer. On Tuesday, administrators put Officer Hart on paid administrative leave pending Washington’s Township inquiry, said Patty Mazur, district spokesman. She said Officer Hart has worked for TPS about 20 months.

Mr. Tatkowski, 40, was charged with misconduct at an emergency, obstructing official business, and resisting arrest. He was arraigned Monday in Toledo Municipal Court, pleaded not guilty, and was released from the Lucas County jail on his own recognizance.

Ms. Meyers, 21, was arrested and booked into the Lucas County jail Sunday night for obstructing official business, tampering with evidence, fictitious plates, and a tax payment warrant.

She appeared Monday in Toledo Municipal Court, where she pleaded not guilty, and was released because of overcrowding, authorities said.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at tdungjen@theblade.com, or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.



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