(Following is a reprint of the original Westwood Baptist sex cops story written by investigative reporter J. Michael Leonard for the now defunct Bradley News Weekly and published on September 3, 2003. Lee Reese was the chief of police at that time and this story proved to be the spark that ignited “Reesegate” and led to Reese being fired and replaced by Wes Snyder.)
NEW DETAILS RELEASED ON CPD SEX COP
Practically everyone knows by now the story of the two Cleveland police officers who were allegedly caught having sex in the back of an SUV in the Westwood Baptist Church’s parking lot during the morning of March 15.
In fact, it was the incident at Westwood that proved to be the catalyst in the current controversy and scrutiny surrounding Cleveland Chief of Police Lee Reese. Many questions have been raised regarding the early morning March 15 incident at Westwood, as well as a subsequent incident two months later.
Cleveland City Councilman Tim Gobble was trying to get some answers regarding the two incidents when Reese, according to a statement released to the news media on Aug. 24, turned for help to his friend Jackie Moore, the chief of police in Franklin, Tennessee. Moore told Cleveland Daily Banner editor Larry Bowers on Aug. 22 that he is a “special friend” of Gobble’s female supervisor at the Secret Service, Sara Beth Pulliam.
Moore appealed to Pulliam to intercede on Reese’s behalf and she was reportedly only too happy to help. She summoned Gobble to her office in Nashville on or around Aug. 13 and reportedly gave him the option of quitting the City Council or losing his job with the Secret Service. Gobble chose to leave the Council.
Since that time, the Bradley News Weekly has been working with several sources within the Cleveland Police Department who say they feel the public and the city council is being misled about the seriousness of the problems with Reese’s administration.
“The reason I’m talking to you,” one source told us, “is because the CPD has such a bad track record on domestics. I’m putting my job and family on the line to speak out.”
Here is what the Weekly has learned of the two incidents that Gobble was so concerned about in the weeks prior to his resignation.
THE FIRST INCIDENT: EARLY A.M., MARCH 15, 2003
According to sources within the Cleveland Police Department, on March 15, 2003, two CPD police officers (one on-duty married male; one off-duty single female) pulled into the parking lot of the Westwood Baptist Church around 4:00 in the morning. The female was driving an SUV; the male officer was in a CPD patrol car.
The male officer got out of his vehicle and joined the female officer in the back of the SUV.
A female marathon runner who lives nearby happened to be on Westwood’s jogging/walking track at the time. She saw the officers when they arrived, approximately 150 yards away. She saw them get out of their vehicles and climb into the back of the SUV. On her next lap around the track, the witness noticed the SUV rocking.
She stopped and peered through the SUV’s window and saw the two officers, in shadow, in a compromising position. She then interrupted and admonished them. As she continued her run, she saw the two officers get out of the back of the SUV, return to their respective vehicles and leave.
The witness allegedly reported the incident to Lee Reese.
When the male officer’s supervisor heard of the incident and the witness’ report, he recommended the on-duty male officer involved be charged with leaving his sector and “conduct unbecoming an officer.”
Reese told council members there was no evidence the two officers were doing anything but “having coffee.” Therefore, the charge of conduct unbecoming an officer would have seemed unwarranted and was dropped.
The male officer was charged with leaving his zone and suspended for two days. He used two days leave time to cover the suspension.
THE SECOND INCIDENT: MAY 23, 2003
According to sources within the CPD, on May 23, 2003, the male officer involved in the Westwood incident, after an evening of drinking, decided to confess his infidelity to his wife.
The wife did not receive the confession very well and the two got into a heated argument. The wife eventually called the female officer who had also been involved in the Westwood incident and there was an intense argument between the two women over the telephone.
The female officer professed to be in love with the male officer and as the two women argued over the phone, the male officer, who was quite intoxicated by that time, became more and more agitated. He yelled at his wife to get off the phone and, in a state of frustration and rage, allegedly punched holes in the walls of their home and destroyed a dresser. By this time, the couple was in a full-blown domestic situation.
At some point, the officer left the home, on foot, wearing little more than a pair of jogging shorts. After a time, the wife became concerned and contacted a CPD officer who, along with another person from the 911 Call Center, went out to look for him.
The heavily intoxicated officer was located at the Waterville Grocery.
In addition to the responding officer, the officer’s wife and girlfriend also came upon the scene. The responding officer contacted his supervisor, who was working security elsewhere. The supervisor advised the responding officer to defuse the situation by sending everyone home, which he did.
On June 9, a memo was sent through the CPD chain of command, reporting the incident and recommending it be investigated by the Internal Affairs Division (IAD). The memo was reviewed by Reese and Captain Tommy McLain, among others.
On June 10, Reese began the process of sending the investigation through IAD. Shortly after, on that same date, Reese stopped the IAD investigation and the officer was sent for a psyche evaluation instead.
There are many ways the second incident violated the CPD’s own domestic policy 500.44 (which was revised on February 15 of 2003). The fact that no Offense Report went on the record and no supervisor was called to the scene are just two.
When asked about it by Councilman Tim Gobble at the July 28 Cleveland City Council meeting, Reese denied any knowledge of a second incident.
As of press time, the Weekly has learned that the CPD administration has either rewritten Policy 500.44, or is in the process of rewriting Policy 500.44, in an apparent attempt cover for mistakes made during the second incident.