Jul. 8, 2013

SPD's DeSalle in sticky situation amid tobacco allegation

A Sandusky police officer caught last year with 50 grams of methamphetamine in his locker is now on administrative leave for apparently chewing tobacco on duty and denying it, police said.

Supervisors placed James DeSalle, a 12-year veteran, on paid leave Wednesday and scheduled him for a pre-disciplinary hearing at 2 p.m. Monday.

In question is a Nov. 5 domestic call at an East Shoreway Drive home, where another officer twice saw DeSalle spit a dark-brown substance on the ground while leaving the home.

When supervisors later asked him if he was chewing tobacco, DeSalle denied it and said he was allergic to a cat in the home, police said.

A video camera in DeSalle’s police cruiser recorded footage of him spitting a substance onto the ground, police said.

Confronted with the video, DeSalle denied he’d been chewing tobacco on duty.

Sandusky prohibits its police officers from using tobacco products on duty.

DeSalle told officers he had tobacco in his mouth only when he was outside his cruiser at a First Street address, according to a pre-disciplinary letter his supervisors sent him.

But the video footage doesn’t support that, the letter said.

“It’s very unprofessional and I’m trying to raise the professional bar (in the department),” Sandusky interim police Chief Jim Lang said.

Lang, who plans to conduct the hearing, declined to speak specifically about DeSalle’s case, but said allegations of this nature could result in an officer being placed on unpaid leave.

More troubling, perhaps, are DeSalle’s past reprimands.

In July 2009, DeSalle was replaced as the handler of Justice, Sandusky’s police dog.

He’d been in charge of Justice for about a year but was reassigned after repeatedly requesting time off at night and weekends, when the police dog is used the most, Lang said.

While reassigning DeSalle, supervisors inventoried his locker and discovered 50 grams of methamphetamine.

The drugs, according to DeSalle’s personnel file, had never been assigned to him.

DeSalle told his supervisors he was using the drugs to train the police dog and intended to notify them about the methamphetamines, but never got around to it.

It’s unknown why DeSalle needed 50 grams of meth to train the dog, rather than just a gram or two.

When the Register reported on DeSalle’s reassignment at the time, then-interim police Chief Charlie Sams had said supervisors were investigating other possible improprieties by DeSalle, though they declined to specify what those were.

According to law enforcement officials, a typical “one-hit” dose of meth is one-fourth of a gram. A gram of meth sells on the street for about $100, making the street value of 50 grams about $5,000.

Three months after that incident, DeSalle received a written reprimand for failing to turn on his cruiser’s video camera during calls. His personnel file noted it was the fourth such incident for him in 2009.

His personnel file also shows he drove recklessly last fall — about 47 mph in a 25 mph zone — while responding to a non-emergency call about a mattress and box spring in the middle of Milan Road.

DeSalle told his supervisors he was concerned someone could have been hurt.

According to Sandusky Municipal Court records, DeSalle has also had a history of money problems with financial, medical and utility companies. A government agency also garnished some of his wages, his personnel file shows.

In regard to DeSalle’s earlier performance, Lang said he doesn’t let an officer’s past cloud his judgment when evaluating an incident now in question.

“I want to give everyone a fair, honest chance,” Lang said.

Legislation appeal up in smoke as judge rules against tobacco company

LEGISLATION to curb smoking by imposing a ban on tobacco displays in shops came a step closer yesterday after an appeal against the proposals by one of the world’s biggest tobacco companies was rejected by judges.
Imperial Tobacco went to court to challenge the provisions of the Tobacco and Primary Medical (Scotland) Act 2010 on the grounds that the matter was reserved to Westminster and outwith the legislative scope of Holyrood.
Yesterday at the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh three judges upheld an earlier appeal that ruled none of the grounds submitted by Imperial were valid and the legislation should stand. Imperial could now take the matter to the Supreme Court in London.
Michael Matheson, the public health minister, welcomed the decision. “I am delighted that the court has upheld the ruling made in September 2010 by Lord Bracadale to dismiss Imperial Tobacco Limited’s legal challenge against the bans on tobacco displays and tobacco sales from automatic vending machines,” he said.
Vicky Crichton of Cancer Research UK said: “We welcome this ruling by appeal court judges. We hope this judgment allows Scotland to move forward with plans to protect future generations of children by putting tobacco out of sight and out of mind.”
The legislation, which will ban the open display of cigarettes in shops and outlaw vending machines, was due to have come into effect in large retailers last October but was delayed until April 2012 because of Imperial’s legal challenge.
Three weeks ago the Scottish Government announced a further delay to “a date to be announced”. The display ban for small shops is scheduled for 2015.
Campaigners against smoking have said the Act will bolster Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in tobacco control.
But retailers and the tobacco industry warned that the legislation would have a severe effect on small shopkeepers who were already reeling from the recession. Sections 1 and 9 of the Act make it an offence to display tobacco products or smoking-related products in the course of business, and to have control of premises on which a vending machine is available.
In his judgment, Lord Hamilton said the objectives of the provisions were not in doubt.
“The risk which the smoking of tobacco products is perceived to present is to health, primarily of the smokers as consumers but also of those non-smokers who may be exposed to a smoke-filled environment and, by ‘passive smoking’, suffer adverse affection,” he added.
Imperial maintained that the provisions related to a reserved matter, the regulation of the sale and supply of goods to consumers, and also claimed they modified article 6 of the Union with England Act 1707, so far as it related to freedom of trade, and therefore breached the Scotland Act 1998