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Published: Friday, 5/15/2009

Ex-Sylvania police officer gets 3 years in theft case

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Before Carl Beckman became a police officer, he took an oath to uphold the law and accepted he would be held to a higher standard, a judge in Lucas County Common Pleas Court said yesterday.

When Beckman betrayed that pledge by stealing thousands of dollars from the Sylvania Police Department property room, he became a "messenger" to others that the law will be enforced equally, Judge Ruth Ann Franks said.

Beckman, 59, was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday and fined $7,500. He pleaded guilty in March to one count of theft in office for pilfering

money seized as evidence over a more than 10-year period.

In total, he took $29,112.49, which he paid back at the end of March.

"Our community expects a great deal from us. We are only human, but in our professional lives, we have to be pristine," Judge Franks said, noting that she too took an oath to uphold the law. " The dishonesty that someone uses as they embezzle funds is despicable."

Judge Franks added that judicial release was a possibility, though it depended on Beckman "doing the right thing" while incarcerated.

A 36-year veteran of the department, Beckman retired in February just days before he was indicted on the felony charge.

He was hired in April, 1973, and put in charge of the property room in 1988.

Beckman admitted during his plea that he took money from the property room safe dating to 1996. The property room houses all evidence seized during crime investigations, including cash taken from suspects.

Attorney Dick Roberts told Judge Franks his client was a "good person who made an egregious and ongoing error."

He said during his career as a police officer, Beckman had done a "good job" and earned the respect and trust of his department's superiors.

Mr. Roberts added that Beckman's only explanation for taking the money were "financial issues." When he left the department, Beckman's base pay was $68,800.

"He borrowed money, he knew better, and it got out of control," Mr. Roberts said.

Since Beckman's indictment, Sylvania has changed the rules for the department's property room, including imposing both annual audits and spot audits. Before the theft discovery, the department only did comprehensive audits when the officer in charge of the property room changed.

Beckman had held the position for 20 years.

The department also began depositing all money taken as part of a criminal investigation into a dedicated bank account through the city's finance department.

Police Chief Gerald Sobb said the changes were a result of the department learning from the incident.

He added other measures have been implemented - such as limiting an officer's ability to delete reports - as the department continues to evaluate operations.

"We deal with adversity every single day. Obviously, this is a little closer to home," Chief Sobb said. " But we also enforce the law, and we put people in jail everyday. Carl did what he did. He admitted to what he did. He [made] restitution, and he'll be in prison."

And the department, he added, will move on.

Before being led away in handcuffs, Beckman apologized to his family, the police department, and his former colleagues.

"I'm sorry for my actions, and I accept responsibility," he said. "I know I'm held to a higher standard."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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