The Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (O.P.B.A)

Message from the Executive Director

The first year of my term has almost passed. After the hard fought battle with Issue 2 in 2011 we immediately moved into 2012 with pension reform issues. The OPBA became extensively involved in the bills prior to them reaching the House.
One of the more significant changes that the OPBA took in January of 2012 was the decision to retain retired Justice Andy Douglas to be Counsel to the Board of the OPBA. It was with his influence and guidance that meetings were set with the Speaker of the House. At that meeting   the concerns with certain facets of the pension reform bills, particularly granting the Pension Board authority to make changes, were raised by the OPBA. I testified at the first House sub-committee hearing on pension reform in August of 2012. The OPBA was present at a majority of the hearings and with Justice Douglas’ assistance a personal meeting was set with the Executive Director of OPERS during the hearings. It is the intent moving forward that the OPBA will become more involved at the State level as it relates to the issues that affect our membership.

There have been many changes to the internal workings of the organization that will not be noticeable to the average member. Once the changes that have been instituted are in effect for a while and the others that are in transition are totally implemented there should be increased efficiency to our day to day operations. The OPBA will continue to move the General Membership meetings throughout the State each year which will allow those members living a prohibited distance from North Royalton the opportunity to attend. The March 2013 General Membership meeting will again be in the Columbus area.
The OPBA will continue to rotate an additional Family Day throughout the State in 2013. We will continue to have a Family Day with the Cleveland Indians but in 2013 we are looking into a family day with the Dayton Dragons for our membership in the southwest part of the state.

The most personal and emotional moments of my first year came with the attendance of the services and wakes for those who had passed. One of the last that I attended was for Officer Jason Gresko of our member Department, Willoughby Police Department. This service brought back many personal memories especially the affects these incidents have on not only the officer’s immediate family but their extended police family, the department specifically and the entire police community in general. We must never forget the sacrifices that these fallen heroes have made along with their families.

It also reminded me of a poem by Linda Ellis entitled “The Dash”.  The poem focuses on the significance of each person’s dash. Each and every one of our members should be proud of the services that they provide in their chosen professions as they continue to make a difference in the performance of their chosen careers. My pledge is to continue to work for the betterment of our organization and law enforcement in general. The “union” is and always will be the cohesiveness and camaraderie that each and every department maintains and fosters. The OPBA will continue to provide its members with unequaled service and representation.

The elections are now over and with the makeup of both houses on the National and State levels basically remaining status quo along with the President winning re-election we must now wait and see what direction they take.  We must continually adapt, anticipate and plan for changes that may be occurring in the future. Health care benefits in retirement must be continually monitored since it is not a benefit that is statutorily guaranteed. I have been in contact with a major insurance company in an attempt to determine if they could offer an alternative post retirement health care plan that could be negotiated into contracts other than those currently available. My former department has a VEBA plan, post retirement health plan, but there are few companies that offer such plans. This new plan from this insurance company may allow beneficiaries to be added unlike the plans that are currently available. This will allow members an additional choice that could possibly be negotiated into future contracts to assist with health care premiums and deductibles. As more information becomes known I will make it available.

In the following pages there is a TOP COPS Awards Nomination Form from The National Association of Police Organizations, NAPO, our National Organization. This event honors those officers who have gone above and beyond the call to duty. Ohio has had several Top Cop award winners and honorable mentions in years past including most recently the 2011 Top Cop winner from Copley P.D. , Officer Ben Campbell. If you know of any officer who may be deserving of this honor please complete and submit the nomination form. Even if they do not receive the TOP COP award they may receive an Honorable Mention. The incidents or case that they are being nominated for must have occurred or concluded between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.

Finally with the Holiday season upon us the OPBA wishes everyone a Happy Holiday and a New Year that is filled with good health, happiness and prosperity.


Receiving Stolen Property: Possession is Not Enough

While on patrol, you run a car’s license plate. The car comes back stolen, so you initiate a traffic stop. Should you arrest the driver for Receiving Stolen Property?

That depends. Simply being in possession of stolen property is not enough to warrant a charge of Receiving Stolen Property.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, there are two elements that must be met to prove a charge of Receiving Stolen Property. The first is possessing stolen property. The second is “knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the property has been obtained through the commission of a theft offense.”

In the above example, the driver is clearly in possession of stolen property. But does he know or have reason to believe that car is stolen? Without proof beyond a reasonable doubt in the affirmative, we cannot obtain a conviction for Receiving Stolen Property.

Why does the law require us to prove a knowledge or reasonable belief of the property being stolen? There are many reasons someone may unwittingly have possession of stolen property. For example, a woman may receive stolen jewelry as a gift. A man could purchase stolen electronics at a pawn shop or second-hand store. In some neighborhoods, it is not uncommon to borrow a car from a friend or even a stranger for a brief amount of time in exchange for money.

So how can you prove that second element? First, take a good look at the property. When was it stolen? The longer the amount of time it was reported stolen, the harder it is to prove that the possessor knows or should know the property is stolen, much less is the person who stole it. Does the suspect have anything that would lead that person to believe he was legally in possession of the property? For example, are the keys in the car? On the flip side, is there anything indicating that the property is stolen, such as a punched ignition or a broken window?

Second, interview the suspect and document all answers in your police report. Get the suspect to talk as much as possible about the property. How did he get the property? How long has he had it? Where did he get it? What does he know about it? If a suspect refuses to say where he received the property or is vague about how he got it, it is easier to prove he knew or should have known the property was stolen.

Prosecutors often use Receiving Stolen Property as an alternative to a Theft charge when we can prove the defendant knew the property was stolen but lack the evidence to prove he actually stole it. We may have some evidence that points to the defendant as the person who stole the property. However, we must still meet the threshold of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant not only possessed stolen property and knew it was stolen, but that he also actually stole it in order to prosecute the suspect for theft.

Consider someone trying to sell jewelry at a pawn shop. The jewelry matches the description of items stolen during a recent rash of burglaries. The seller claims he received the jewelry when his grandma passed away. An investigation reveals that the seller’s grandma is still living and never owned the jewelry in question. Obviously the seller was in possession of stolen property. And that he lied about the property’s origins proves he had reason to believe the property was stolen. However, there is no evidence other than the stolen jewelry to connect the seller to any of the burglaries. In this case, although we believe he was involved in the burglaries, we can only charge him with Receiving Stolen Property.

Receiving Stolen Property is a good alternative charge to Theft because the thresholds are the same for both charges. Property valued at less than $1,000 is a misdemeanor. Property valued at $1,000 to $7,500 is felony of the fifth degree. Property valued from $7,501 to $150,000 is a felony of the fourth degree. Cars, guns, checks, credit cards and prescription drugs are all felonies of the fourth degree, regardless of their value.

Always remember that possessing stolen property in and of itself is not a crime. A suspect must meet the second element of either knowing or having reason to believe that the property is stolen in order to be charged with Receiving Stolen Property.

This article is not to be considered legal advice. Please consult your police legal advisor regarding any legal issue.


Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund

As 2013 brings us the changes we needed to preserve The Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, the work will still continue to make the fund stronger and stronger. The theme this year will be disability pensions. As we stand, we are one of the few in the country pension funds that offer partial off-duty disability awards. We are also one of the highest awarder of disability pensions in the country with approximately 34% of our retirees being disability grants. The Board of Trustees and the Ohio Retirement Study Council clearly understands that the benefits awarded need to be looked at.

Our process is one of the best in the country. What really becomes the issue is what benefits we pay and what injuries are included in the calculation. Additional factors which increase the benefit also need to be looked at. The Board has added special meetings so that we can timeline these issues and work diligently to make these changes before they are imposed upon us by the legislature. We assure the membership that the Trustees will continue to work toward improving this grant.

On the other end, it may be a little slow on the legislative side so we shouldn't have too much to worry about. We will continue to show the ORSC that we are attempting to make improvements where need be. Our health care stabilization fund is our focus to continue to offer reasonable cost health care for our members and their families. Currently, our health care stabilization fund is healthy and we are looking to keep it that way.

We have recently had a few changes to our administration, John Gallagher is our new Executive Director and Jennifer Harville is our Director of Member Services. John comes to us as the Executive Director of the Chicago Police Pension Fund and has a lot of experience which will help lead our fund moving forward. Jennifer has been with OP&F for some time and is experience in serving our members. Both are great additions to our executive/director staff.

Thank you for your support and please feel free to contact myself should the need arise.

Scott Huff

Cleveland Police

Trustee - Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund


H.R. 218 (The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act) and the New York State Firearms Law

The State of New York last week passed sweeping new state level legislation that greatly restricts the ability to own or carry certain firearms in that state . Regrettably, the Governor and the proponents of this legislation, in their haste to push this law though the State Assembly, failed to take into account the legitimate needs of active and retired law enforcement officers to defend themselves and the public. NAPO worked with its New York groups, particularly the NYPD Detectives Endowment Association, while this bill was in the works, in an effort to prevent the new law from harming police officers, but those efforts unfortunately failed. A question then arises, as to whether or not the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (18 U.S.c. §§ 926B et seq.) (commonly known as "H.R. 218" from its original Bill number) provides protection for active and/or retired officers who are in New York State.

It is important to note that the federal law, H.R. 218, DOES provide SOME protection for officers, both active and retired. This is because the federal law applies "Notwithstanding any other provision of the law of any State or any political subdivision thereof .. ." (18 U.S.C. §926B(a» HOWEVER, that protection is LIMITED by the terms of the federal statute , as far as what is covered. Thus, when an officer (active or retired) carries a firearm pursuant to the terms of H.R. 218, the FIREARM its self is protected, (18 U.S.c. §926B(e)(1» as well as any AMMUNITION not prohibited by FEDERAL law (18 U.S.C. §926B(e)(2» So, for example, hollow points are O.K., even if the locality normally prohibits them. BUT the language of H.R. 218 is silent as to MAGAZINES. And thus provides no protection under federal law for state or local officers or deputies who wish to rely on it to overcome regulations like the new New York law which prohibits magazines of greater than 7 rounds capacity. (See 18 U.S.c. §927, Effect on State Law) Also, it is important to remember that even under H.R. 218, the right to carry a firearm is not universal. H.R. 218 overrides State and Local laws, not federal ones , so it gives no right to carry a firearm on a commercial airliner, for example. Also, H.R. 218 by its own terms "shall not be construed to supersede or limit the laws of any State that- (1) permit private persons or entities to prohibit or restrict the possession of concealed firearms on their property; or (2) prohibit or restrict the possession of firearms on any State or local government property, installation, building, base, or park." (18 U.S.c. §926B(b» So a local government can still I control the right to carry on its own local governmental property (as opposed to public spaces), and a private citizen or shopkeeper can still control who can carry on his or her own private property.