Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Police uncover officer's dark side

Investigation finds threats, complaints

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Some of William R. Hensley's fellow officers had raised concerns about him years ago, after they saw him "bully" suspects as early as 1996, a 2002 internal probe reveals.

The 100-page document, released Monday in response to the Enquirer's public records request, also shows that the now-suspended detective, though married, has twice been ordered to stay away from women identified as his "girlfriends" - and he allegedly threatened "to get physical" with colleagues who were being questioned about him last year.

The document about the internal police probe released Monday depicted a different picture of Mr. Hensley's record than the mostly glowing city personnel files released last week.

Detective Hensley, 33, of Liberty Township, has been on paid leave since Jan. 16 after Monica Bellissimo, 26, alleged in Butler County court records that Detective Hensley, her "ex-boyfriend," was stalking her. Police Chief Neil Ferdelman on Monday said a hearing, at which Detective Hensley will have an opportunity to respond to multiple alleged violations of departmental policy, could be conducted this week.

Michael Shanks, an attorney who will represent Detective Hensley at the hearing, declined to comment Monday.

Last year's internal investigation resulted in a suspension of 30 working days and 30 calendar days, plus a requirement that Detective Hensley undergo psychotherapy. It was launched after a Feb. 11 incident. Detective Hensley allegedly shoved a juvenile who had witnessed a crime "into a chair and backward into a wall, causing him to strike his head" and resulting in a bump, an investigative summary says. Detective Hensley "had a wild look in his face," the boy's father told investigators.

Superiors who investigated that complaint interviewed Detective Hensley's colleagues, who said they had previously complained about his behavior, Chief Ferdelman said. Some of the concerns might have been internally investigated before September 1998, when Chief Ferdelman began heading the department, he said.

"I don't know how many officers did come forward," he said. "I don't know how much was actually relayed to the administration at the time." Some of the officers who may have done those investigations are retired, and the information might not have been passed along as it should have been, he said.

Regardless, Chief Ferdelman said he is satisfied that even the old allegations "were very thoroughly investigated."

The chief cited those incidents in an executive summary prepared for the city's law department.

Among them:

One officer said he saw then-officer Hensley grab a handcuffed suspect in 1996 and slam him into a wall. "I think Bill hit him with his flashlight. The guy fell to the ground," the officer said.

During another 1996 incident, an officer said, "I was handcuffing (a suspect), when Billy hit him in the face. After that, I took Billy off to the side and told him not to be hitting people in the face. I told him I did not want to be around when he's hitting people like that. Billy's famous comment to me was, `I like to see my work.'"

In June 1997, another officer said he saw Officer Hensley punch a handcuffed burglary suspect at least twice.

In the summer of 2000, another officer reported seeing Detective Hensley "chuck" a boy in the face with his forearm.

Also, last year, Chief Ferdelman ordered Detective Hensley to stay away from Nicole Richmond, a woman who worked in the juvenile court and at the local Elder-Beerman store, while on duty. Ms. Richmond, identified as another girlfriend of the detective, filed a telephone harassment complaint against him with the Butler County Sheriff's Office on March 18 last year.

Last year's disciplinary action was intended to encourage Detective Hensley to change his behavior, the chief said, adding: "Did it get the result that we hoped for? It doesn't look like it."

After the pre-disciplinary hearing, Chief Ferdelman has five working days to notify the officer as to what discipline he might face for the most recent allegations.

E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com

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