Tuesday, August 28, 2001

City fights cop's reinstatement

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati attorneys are fighting an arbitrator's decision to reinstate a Cincinnati police sergeant who admitted planting drugs on a suspect.

        They have filed a petition in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court accusing arbitrator Harry Berns of exceeding his authority when he ordered the city to reinstate Sgt. John Sess last month.


        Sgt. Sess, a 23-year veteran, was fired from the police division in 1997 after he admitted he planted a bag of marijuana on a suspect in 1984.

        Assistant City Solicitor Augustine Giglio said Monday that attorneys for the Fraternal Order of Police — target of the suit — would file a reply by the end of September.

        According to court documents, Sgt. Sess said he found a bag of marijuana in his police cruiser but did not turn it in as evidence.

        That same day he
planted the marijuana on a suspect who had been arrested for drug offenses and got him to confess.

        What happened to the marijuana Sgt. Sess planted on the suspect is unknown, according to court documents.

        In his decision to reinstate the sergeant with back pay, benefits and seniority, Mr. Berns says the tactic was a legitimate maneuver.

        He also said the city could not discipline Sgt. Sess for failing to immediately turn in the marijuana because such a procedure did not go into effect until 1995.

        According to the city's petition, Sgt. Sess “on at least three occasions, took an oath to ... uphold and defend the laws of Ohio and the Constitution of the United States and Ohio. (His) conduct in planting the evidence ... violated the constitutional rights of a (criminal) suspect.”

        Also in his five-page decision, Mr. Berns lambasted The Cincinnati Enquirer for printing “half-baked trash” and for trying to make the story “sexy.”

        City attorneys contend this is evidence that Mr. Berns ignored relevant material and based his decision on “apparent animus and bias against the press ... as well as an apparent bias in favor of all police officers, including Sess.”

        A judge has yet to be assigned to hear the petition.

       Reporter Tom O'Neill contributed.


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