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Tioga Borough accepts resignations from officer, leaders

TiogaBoroughCrowd
Tom Riese
/
WVIA News
Tioga Borough members attended a special council meeting to accept resignations from Timothy Loehmann and four local officials Tuesday night. Pictured is council vice president Robert Wheeler leaving midway through the meeting.

Four Tioga Borough officials, as well as Timothy Loehmann, the former Cleveland, Ohio officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice in 2014, resigned at a special meeting Tuesday night.

The hiring of a police officer in Tioga sparked controversy in the Northern Pennsylvania borough, leading the officer and four borough leaders to resign on Tuesday.

On July 5, Timothy Loehmann was sworn in as the borough's sole police officer. Loehmann is the former Cleveland, Ohio cop who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, which sparked national protests in the wake of Michael Brown’s death. Brown, 18, was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri three months earlier.

During a special meeting Tuesday, Mayor David Wilcox asked members of Tioga’s police committee and other officials, including Jeffrey Loomis, Steve Hazlett, Marybess Hazlett, and Andre Reed, to step down after hiring Loehmann.

Steve Hazlett, the former borough council president, and his wife, Marybess Hazlett, who also sat on council, resigned. So did Loomis, the borough solicitor, and Reed, the town’s code enforcer. They did not attend Tuesday's meeting, which was held outside to accommodate the crowd. About 70 out of the town’s roughly 700 residents attended.

After a photo of Loehmann being sworn in was shared on Facebook, word spread quickly on social media and in the borough. Residents in Tioga, located eight miles from the New York border in Tioga County, organized a protest on July 6 to pressure the town’s government to respond.

In a letter to the borough, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro wrote that Tioga broke the law by failing to complete a background check.

Loehmann withdrew his application early on July 7.

Council vice president Robert Wheeler walked away from the meeting of the borough building when council member Alan Brooks proposed all resignations be accepted Tuesday night, not just Loehmann’s. Wheeler said the borough leaders’ resignations should wait until the following meeting, but a majority voted to accept immediately.

A man from the crowd shouted at Wheeler as he walked toward North Main Street.

“You risked the public safety by allowing that officer to be hired!” he yelled.

The borough mayor, who was pictured in the viral photo of Loehmann being sworn in, said he was unaware of the officer’s identity. Wilcox claims that the police committee did not disclose his background.

“I would gladly take a lie detector test at any point to prove that I had no knowledge of [Loehmann’s history] whatsoever,” he said.

A video from the officer’s swearing in shows council members saying and spelling his name incorrectly as “Lochmann.” Wilcox declined to comment if Loehmann’s name was spelled incorrectly on the resume.

Tioga County resident Stephanie Pawlowski said even though a background check wasn’t performed, she still wants to see more measures taken in the hiring process. The borough hasn’t had a steady police officer for more than a year.

“Think there should be risk assessments put into place for instances like this,” she said. “Even if we don’t want to go into the background check, if we want to go into the negative national attention and the divide that it has caused our community – that’s pretty powerful, too.”

Recent changes have been made to law enforcement personnel tracking. As part of Pennsylvania’s Act 57, passed two years ago on July 14, 2020, a police officer misconduct database was created. Municipalities are required to check that database during a background check.

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