Saturday, May 17, 2003

Judge called 911 to get officer sent

He wanted inmate transport

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - Municipal Judge George Parker apparently was so bothered that he couldn't get an inmate delivered to his courtroom on Wednesday that he improperly called 911 to have an officer sent to his office.

Records at the Warren County Communications Center show that Parker called the emergency number at 7:06 p.m. and told a supervisor "that there was not an emergency; however, he wanted an officer there soon."

A written statement from the supervisor said Parker sounded "anxious and in a hurry" and "would not provide any further information as to what the problem was." A 911 tape was not available because the recording system was not working when the call came in, officials said.

The county documents were released after the Enquirer's public records request on Friday, a day after Parker charged Mason Police Chief Ron Ferrell with two counts of contempt of court for refusing to send officers to the Warren County Jail to pick up prisoners for hearings at city court. The service is routinely provided by the sheriff's office, but deputies were too busy.

"It's not what 911 is for," said Frank Young, who heads the communications center. "It's for life-threatening emergencies, not for wanting a police officer to transport a prisoner. We only have limited 911 lines that come into our place, and you've got to keep those open."

Abuse of the 911 system is a misdemeanor offense, but authorities typically invoke it only if there is a pattern of continuing non-emergency calls. Young said the Parker incident will be reviewed by county officials.

"A lot of people don't know what numbers to call, so obviously they call 911. He has the proper numbers down here. He has been through the center," Young said.

Communications records also indicate that Parker placed a second call to the communications Wednesday evening but used a non-emergency line instead.

That time, he asked a dispatcher to track down Ferrell, apparently because the officer, Peter Schultz, refused to pick up the inmate.

Ferrell said Parker had an arrest warrant to take Schultz into custody that day, but did not file it.

Parker could not be reached Friday, and Bill Scherpenberg, his court clerk, said he was not aware of the 911 call.

Wednesday's flap was the first of two incidents that eventually led to Ferrell's arrest Thursday afternoon.

Ferrell said he refused Parker's order and ordered his officers to do the same, based on an opinion from the city's law director that Mason officers were legally obligated to transport prisoners only in their own cases.

The two cases involved suspects who were charged by the sheriff's office. Ferrell said he couldn't afford to take an officer off regular patrol for another agency's case.

Wednesday's proceeding, which involved a trial on a misdemeanor charge, was rescheduled, Parker said earlier. Charges against Thursday's defendant were dis-missed in the city court minutes before Ferrell was arraigned and after the city prosecutor said the case already had been sent to the county grand jury. Scherpenberg said the judge also had tried to get the same defendant transported Wednesday because legal time limits were ready to expire, which could lead to an automatic dismissal of the charges.

Friday, Ferrell fielded many phone calls and e-mails from supporters. He lamented that his arrest upset his family, but said he still thinks he did what was right.

"I felt like I was standing up for the officers. It was the right thing to do," he said from his office at the police station. "I'm not trying to make a statement. I'm just trying to do my job."


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