Wednesday, July 18, 2001
Police youth leader indicted
20-year veteran started SCOPE
By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Police Lt. M. Aaron Mel Taylor had hoped to make a difference in the lives of needy kids, say those who know him.
It's what led the 20-year police veteran, who commands the Youth Services Section, to start a nonprofit organization that placed a police substation in Roselawn and to create the division's Scouting and Community Oriented Policing Efforts (SCOPE) program, a mentoring initiative that pairs disadvantaged kids with police officers.
On Tuesday, though, the 47-year-old lieutenant was indicted on accusations of taking funds earmarked for the SCOPE program and using his position to bilk a city agency out of money and a suburban school district out of computers.
Though this is a complex case, the premise is simple. When you are placed in a position of trust, and that trust is violated, there are consequences, said Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen. The official charges in the 10-count indictment are four counts of theft in office, and three counts each of tampering with evidence and unlawful interest in a public contract. If convicted of all charges, he could face a maximum of 23 1/2 years in prison.
Lt. Taylor, who was released Tuesday on his own recognizance, declined to comment.
Prosecutors contend Lt. Taylor solicited donations from organizations and misled them into believing their contributions would go to benefit disadvantaged children in the SCOPE program.
Instead, according to the prosecutor, more than $10,500 in grant money awarded to SCOPE by the Boy Scouts of America was used to support his Roselawn business, the nonprofit Roselawn Neighborhood Support Group (RNS), which he ran from the basement of a Stillwell Road building he owns.
Checks made payable to RNS were deposited into a checking account he controlled, officials alleged.
Key accusations against Lt. Melvin Taylor:|
Used on-duty Cincinnati officers to dismantle and transport hundreds of computers from Princeton City Schools for his personal business.
Contracted with the Metropolitan Housing Authority to teach 15 needy kids computer skills at $175 each through SCOPE program, but used the money for his private business.
Used his position with Cincinnati police to further his own business.
In addition, prosecutors said, Lt. Taylor got the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority to sponsor a program in which he would teach 15 disadvantaged kids basic computer skills. He charged $175 per child and gave the CMHA an invoice that indicated the money would go to the police division for use in SCOPE.
Upon receipt of the money, prosecutors said, he changed the invoice so that the money would go to RNS.
In a deal with the Princeton City Schools, the lieutenant is accused of acquiring 450 outdated Compaq computers from the district that he said would be refurbished and given to needy kids in Over-the-Rhine. He later told investigators that the computers were intended for RNS, officials said.
He also used on-duty officers, subordinate to him in the police division, and children in the SCOPE program to dismantle and transport the computers for storage in a vacant Cincinnati school building used by police for SWAT team practice.
Officials said Lt. Taylor told these agencies he was acting under the auspices of the Cincinnati Police Division or led them to believe his actions were sanctioned.
Long-time friend Sam Malone, a former Cincinnati City Council candidate and a member of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, said news of the indictment was tough to hear.
He was my mentor and boxing coach. I've known him since I was 12, Mr. Malone added. My impression is that ... for as long as I've known him ... he has been investing in young folks and in the city, trying to make a difference.
Neighbors found the allegations hard to believe.
He has always struck me as a really good role model for kids. He is a good neighbor and a good man, said Carolyn Sherman, who lives near Lt. Taylor in Bond Hill.
She said that since he was put on administrative leave earlier this month, a steady stream of family, friends, and well-wishers have come to visit.
A lot of people have been supportive of him and people don't support you if you haven't been doing right for a long time, said Ms. Sherman.
Another neighbor, the Rev. E.G. Smith, said he has known Lt. Taylor for nearly three decades and was amazed at the charges.
The Rev. Mr. Smith described the police supervisor as very smart and said his caring and kindness, especially toward young people, was always evident.
I wouldn't be surprised if he is found not guilty, he said.
Princeton City Schools officials said they were looking for a way to dispose of 450 computers and learned of the SCOPE program from a manager at PC On Call.
Officials with the computer repair company could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Bill Lightfoot, Princeton's technology coordinator, said the school board approved an in-kind agreement in which the district would charge $25. The SCOPE program would pay via the service of dismantling and transporting the 450 computers from the district.
Law prohibits us from selling these computers to an individual. We have to dispose of them properly or sell them to another municipality which will recycle them. That's what we thought we were doing. If we had know they were going to an individual, we would have never agreed to this, Mr. Lightfoot said.
Lt. Taylor, who became a lieutenant in 1993, will undergo an administrative hearing concerning his job July 24.
He is the fifth Cincinnati police officer indicted since November.
Michael D. Clark and Karen Samples contributed to this report.
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