March 10--MEDINA -- Police Chief Patrick Berarducci, 61, has been ordered to serve a four-week, 160-hour, unpaid suspension for making a sexual hand gesture during a Jan. 26 mandatory meeting with dispatchers.
City Law Director Gregory Huber, who was charged with investigating the incident, said Berarducci initially defended his actions by saying he was simply mimicking the rolling of a set of dice.
The Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association filed a complaint Feb. 13 over the gesture that was made during a meeting to discuss scheduling changes, new software and rumors of the potential merging of dispatching services with the Medina County Sheriff's Office. Nine women and one man attended the meeting.
Dispatchers and police officers indicated that this was not the first instance that the chief had made the gesture to express his disdain over a variety of topics during his three-year tenure, Huber said in his report. Only one dispatcher had previously registered a complaint over the gesture before the Jan. 26 meeting.
After a complaint was filed over the January meeting, Huber wrote that the police chief called in many of the dispatchers and interviewed them in the presence of two police officer supervisors about their concerns over the gesture. The chief reportedly told the dispatchers that his gesture was nothing more than rolling dice in his hand.
The dispatchers told Huber that they were offended by the gesture and were insulted by the chief's assertion that the gesture was not sexual in nature.
Mayor Dennis Hanwell, who is also the city's safety director, issued a statement Friday that he suspended Berarducci based on the evidence that he performed an inappropriate hand gesture and swore during the meeting with dispatchers. The chief had a hearing before the mayor on Friday.
Hanwell said Berarducci has been suspended for violating three department policies. They are: accountability and truthfulness, conduct unbecoming an officer and for conducting an investigation when there is personal involvement regarding the alleged misconduct.
"These actions were not appropriate for the work environment," the mayor said in a statement.
"Upon learning of the complaint, [the chief] attempted to investigate it [himself] ... when confronted and questioned about the incident(s) [he] provided a less than truthful explanation. [He] later admitted the explanation was not truthful."
Hanwell said the chief's conduct caused negative publicity and discredited the police department and the city.
The four-week suspension went into effect immediately. Berarducci cannot return to work until April 9.
A 38-year veteran of law enforcement, Berarducci began his police career in Youngstown in 1974 and later served as an ATF agent. He was Boardman's police chief before accepting the Medina post in 2009. He succeeded Hanwell, who ran for mayor.
Berarducci could not be reached for comment.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.