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Published: Saturday, 9/5/2009

Not all officers wear badge with honor


ON WEDNESDAY night, about 75 people demonstrated in front of the Toledo police Scott Park substation to protest the rehiring of police Sgt. Daniel Brandon.

Though the department has tough and yet compassionate police officers who understand that their role is to protect and to serve the public, like every profession, a badge of honor does not apply to every officer.

Sergeant Brandon is one of them.

Among those protesting were not only women carrying placards and candles and chanting for his removal. Some young and middle-aged men were there. Motorists blew their horns in support of the effort, and some officers arriving and leaving the substation also honked horns to show support for the sergeant's removal from the police force.

Clearly, motorists and officers backing the vigil organized by the Toledo chapter of the National Organization for Women understand that when a resident calls police for help, one doesn't expect to be threatened, intimidated, or to have fear instilled in them by an officer of the law.

But that has allegedly happened with Sergeant Brandon present. On two occasions he threatened to arrest a woman working at a convenience store if she did not have sex with him. Recently, he was accused of making unsuitable comments to South Toledoans whose home was invaded.

The sergeant was fired a year ago this month after he has found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer. But in June, an arbitrator ordered him returned to work, although without back pay.

Though an investigation is pending, apparently the sergeant was not back on the job long this summer before another complaint was levied against him. On Aug. 27, a complaint was filed accusing the sergeant of making unsuitable remarks to the family. Chief Mike Navarre has told my colleagues in the newsroom that an internal investigation regarding allegations of "improper demeanor" is under way.

Since learning that the arbitrator ordered the officer returned to work, I have wondered if the arbitrator has ever had the need to call police and whether she would be comfortable if the sergeant (or if she doesn't live in the city, anyone like the sergeant) responded to a call from her or other women in her family.

A Navarre Avenue 7-Eleven store employee accused the officer of making sexual comments, suggesting use of an illegal substance, and using vulgar language in March and in April, 2008.

According to the lawsuit, the clerk said the officer said she "would have sex with [him] 'either willingly or by force.' " Sounds like a threat of rape to me.

The sergeant can be heard on a tape recorded by the store's surveillance video saying: "I will take your punk [expletive] to jail and while you're sitting in the county [jail], you'll be thinking, [expletive] it was only five minutes."

He said he was joking, but you don't joke like that. Whether or not he was joking, it was not only unbecoming, but outrageous, for an officer of the law to behave that way.

Reasonable people don't want to see anyone pushed out of a job. However, reasonable people cannot tolerate an officer making inappropriate remarks to a family calling police or threatening to rape and arrest a woman refusing to have sex with him.

NOW President Anita Rios is committed to continuing the vigils until he is off the force. Are you?

Rose Russell is a Blade associate editor.

Contact her at rrussell@theblade.com

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