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Prosecutors probe use of chief's police powers;

The Cincinnati Enquirer (Ohio), NEWS
BYLINE: Jennifer Baker and Quan Truong

Lincoln Heights, OH

LINCOLN HEIGHTS - By the end of the week, Lincoln Heights will lose another police chief embroiled in yet another controversy in this troubled village.

Ron Twitty, hired last year to turn around the small department plagued with corruption, said Tuesday he quit on Sept. 30 - the same day The Enquirer reported he was not a certified police officer.

Twitty may be leaving, but the problems do not end with his departure.

The Enquirer has learned that Twitty made at least one arrest during his time as a police chief. Without being certified, Twitty doesn't have any authority to arrest anyone. The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office said it will look into the case Wednesday to see if any charges may come of it.

Without police certification, Twitty is essentially just a regular citizen. By making an arrest, he could possibly be charged with impersonating a police officer, which is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable up by up to 180 days in jail prison.

Hamilton County court records show Twitty, who was identified as "Col. Twitty," was listed as a prosecution witness in the case against Leonard Warren.

Warren was arrested Nov. 23 on a charge of menacing and assault against Lincoln Heights Village Manager Robert Bannister.

When asked about the incident earlier this year - well before the news of his certification broke - Bannister said, "Twitty was there and arrested him."

The Enquirer filed an open records request Sept. 30 for all police incident reports that list Twitty as an arresting officer and for traffic citations issued by the chief.

The department has not provided those records, and no village officials could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Twitty said he is leaving his $50,000-a-year job for personal reasons.
"I love Lincoln Heights," said Twitty, 60, who was appointed police chief in May 2009. "I've actually enjoyed every single day that I've worked here. I really have."

Twitty declined to discuss his certification Tuesday other than to say: "My boss is aware of what the story is." He insisted it had nothing to do with his leaving.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office also said it was not aware Twitty had taken the top cop's job in Lincoln Heights, even though village officials are required to notify the state when they appoint a new police chief.

Without certification, Twitty is still allowed to wear a police uniform and carry a gun, the AG's office said. But it would be illegal for him to enforce Ohio law, which could be as simple as turning on his police lights and pulling over a vehicle.

Police officers who leave service for more than four years lose their certification and have to take a state exam to be recertified. Twitty, who left the Cincinnati Police Department amid controversy in 2002, did not rejoin a police department until 2009 when he was hired by Lincoln Heights.

"I've been planning to leave for a while," he said, declining to elaborate. He said he has no immediate plans to return to the work force.

"I'm going to sit home on the porch and watch people go to work, get back to some personal stuff I'd like to do," Twitty said, "get to the gym, spend time with lots of grandkids, activities at school, get to the golf course, do a little travel. I am just going to relax for a while."

Twitty said Bannister has not told him who will take his place, or if an interim chief will step in this weekend.

Calls to Bannnister and several council members, including Mayor Laverne Mitchell, were not returned. One councilman, Richard Headen, declined to comment.

Lincoln Heights, a community of 4,000 residents in northern Hamilton County, should not be without a visible police chief for long. The suburb has a well-known reputation for violence. Even police have not been spared.

Most recently, in separate incidents this summer two police officers - one from Sharonville and one from Woodlawn - were fired upon when they came into Lincoln Heights to apprehend suspects.

The department is also under scrutiny for financial irregularities.
In December, the state released a special audit showing that more than $8,600 was missing from the department's evidence room and bank accounts under the supervision of three former police chiefs.
In August, upon Twitty's request, the village agreed to hire an outside agency to provide a management audit of the Police Department.

When Twitty was hired, village officials praised his history of using community-oriented policing practices when he worked for the Cincinnati Police Department, a skill they hoped he would bring to Lincoln Heights.

In Cincinnati, Twitty earned $111,000 a year supervising 160 officers in the investigations bureau. The city's first African-American assistant chief met often with community groups and helped calm tempers after the 2001 riots.

He left in 2002 after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of attempted obstruction of official business. In exchange, he agreed to retire and was fined $1. The case has been expunged.

The plea came after he called Cincinnati police on July 4, 2002, and reported that his unmarked Ford Taurus was hit while parked in front of his Bond Hill house. He said he was home sleeping at the time, but others reported seeing him out long past 1 a.m.

Twitty has always maintained his innocence and said the cost of the criminal case forced him to make the plea.

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