The president of the Dayton unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in a press conference Friday called upon the city of Nelsonville to fire a police officer who allegedly has made racist, threatening comments about Hocking College’s interim police chief.
Meanwhile, Nelsonville City Council is meeting this Wednesday, while a protest related to this situation is scheduled to take place outside the City Building during part of the meeting. The council meeting starts at 7 p.m. while the protest is scheduled from 6-8 p.m.
According to the Facebook event listing, the protest is meant to call to attention “Braglin’s racist and misogynistic posts and the attempt by the police to protect an open racist within their ranks.”
Derrick L. Foward, president of the Dayton NAACP unit, said Friday afternoon that the city of Nelsonville must terminate police officer Joshua Braglin, or face a potential lawsuit from the NAACP. By Monday, he added, the NAACP plans to file a complaint with U.S. District Attorney Benjamin Glassman for the Southern District of Ohio (with the U.S. Department of Justice) regarding the situation (it wasn’t clear if that had happened as of The NEWS’ Monday deadline). (Monday was a holiday so presumably nothing could have been filed then anyway.)
Nelsonville City Manager Chuck Barga has said the city has been investigating Braglin’s conduct since last November, when they learned of racist, insulting posts Braglin apparently made on Facebook about Hocking College Interim Police Chief Tiffany Tims (who is African American) and Hocking College President Betty Young. Braglin was placed on paid administrative leave on April 3 of this year, and then on unpaid leave on April 26.
Foward referenced a comment that Braglin allegedly made to at least two other Nelsonville Police officers earlier this year or late last year, in which the two officers confirmed to Barga, Braglin said he would “beat that n****r to death with a banana” before Tims could be made the permanent police chief of Hocking College. (The N-word was spelled out in Barga’s account.)
“That is downright bigotry; that is downright racism and he needs to be fired immediately,” Foward said. “I am calling on Mr. Barga to do the right thing, I am calling upon the chief of police of Nelsonville to do the right thing, to terminate his (Braglin’s) employment immediately.”
As of Monday afternoon, Barga had not responded to a request for comment about the NAACP demand that The NEWS submitted to him on Friday.
Foward declined to comment on when or in what capacity the NAACP would file a lawsuit against the city of Nelsonville. “I think we have given enough time to the city manager to do the right thing,” he added.
Hocking Police Chief Tims spoke out for the first time publicly during the press conference in Dayton. She initially had filed a complaint with the city of Nelsonville last year about Braglin’s conduct.
“This situation has dragged on,” Tims said. “...They said when I asked them, in January or February, what was going on with the case... that they had turned it over to an investigator. My concern is I filed the complaint in December, and you start the investigation in February? Then in April you put him on administrative leave, he was still working, and then on April 26 you put him on unpaid administrative leave? I’m trying to figure out where does justice get served. As a law-enforcement officer, you’re held at a difference standard.
“...Something has to be done,” Tims continued. “There are a lot of African-American men who are being killed because of individuals (police) like this (Braglin). I cannot brush this under the rug.”
One screenshot of Braglin’s apparent Facebook posts, which The NEWS obtained via public-records requests, shows an image that appears to be from Facebook Messenger, of Braglin sharing a meme of an African-American woman sitting in her car with the text “Acting Chief Timms (sic)… Chicken and Waffles Baby!!!”
Another post on Braglin’s Facebook is structured like a Bible passage.
“A reading from the book of Braglin. ‘ The Lord sayith to young Joshua, the force between good and evil, ‘Step forward and speak your mind, if the half ass chief and old bitty president of a sinking college don’t like your comments, tell them to F*** off’ ….for the Lord’s house has many rooms, 1 filled with bananas, the other with effordent (sic).” Efferdent is a denture care product, and the four-letter F-word was spelled out.
Barga has said the city held a pre-disciplinary hearing for Braglin on April 2, after which Police Chief Chris Johnson said in a report that he recommended “discipline up to and including termination” for Braglin.
Barga said last week that another pre-disciplinary hearing is scheduled for this week; that hearing will involve discussion of Braglin’s alleged threat to “beat that n****r to death with a banana” against Tims.
The NEWS has learned that Braglin has been disciplined by the city of Nelsonville on five separate occasions since 2009, prior to the most recent investigation. Barga initially had told The NEWS that there were “no previous disciplines” in Braglin’s personnel file because of a provision in the city’s contract with the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (OPBA, a police union) that means the city must remove any disciplinary actions from that file two years after they happen. However, as of Thursday last week, Barga had provided a copy of:
• A one-day suspension in February 2016 that was rescinded after a grievance from the OPBA. The initial suspension came after the executive director of the SEPTA corrections facility in Nelsonville complained about a post Braglin made on Facebook calling the facility “an absolute joke” and a “waste of taxpayers’ money.” Braglin also in the post said he still held a “master key” to the facility despite having left SEPTA “many years ago,” and made a joke about the facility having lax security.
• An agreement reached between the city of Nelsonville and the OPBA on May 16, 2013, after a criminal charge of tampering with records against Braglin in Hocking County was dismissed. The agreement explains that Braglin was issued a 29-day unpaid suspension, equivalent to the time that Braglin was placed on unpaid administrative leave while the criminal investigation was under way. There’s a “last-chance” provision in the agreement, stipulating that if Braglin committed any further serious misconduct or felony crimes over the next two years (until April 2015), he could be fired.
• A one-day suspension in late March 2010 for “violating department regulation/rules,” although it’s not clear why he received that punishment from the records Barga provided.
• A three-day suspension in January 2009 for violating the department’s rules on “reporting for duty” and “neglect of duty.”
Barga said Friday that he had difficulty finding the records after they had been expunged from Braglin’s personnel file (Barga has only been in office since March 2017).
Barga also provided a record of an email showing that he had issued an oral reprimand to Braglin in August 2017 for harassing the wife of a potential candidate for chief of police via several Facebook posts. Barga previously has told The NEWS that he didn’t have record of that disciplinary action because it “was an oral reprimand.”
Barga said last Wednesday that the probe into Braglin has taken longer than normally would be the case because all of his reported comments have come when he was “off duty.” Braglin previously has acknowledged to a city-hired investigator that he made the Facebook posts, but doesn't consider them "racist." During the first pre-disciplinary hearing, Braglin's police union-appointed attorney said Braglin is "remorseful" and "regrets" making the posts, and claimed it was "off-duty, alcohol-related speech.”
THE NAACP’S FOWARD provided a copy of a letter from Hocking College President Betty Young, sent to Chief Tims on May 21. Young in the letter expressed her concern for a “lack of responsiveness of the Nelsonville city administration and Police Department” in addressing the “outrageous and unprofessional” behavior of Braglin.
Young also commended Tims for her “professionalism.”
“I have and will continue to work with you to assure all our students are safe and that we together foster a community of respect both on campus and in our large community,” Young wrote. ‘We share a commitment to assure racism, sexism, ageism and any other form of prejudicial behavior is not tolerated on campus or in our community.”
Young had shown up at City Manager Barga’s office with Hocking College Trustee Mike Brooks to complain about Braglin’s Facebook posts last November, and indicated that “if the city did not act swiftly to resolve the problem, they would see to it that appropriate action was taken,” according to a timeline Barga created in January 2018 at the request of Nelsonville City Council member Taylor Sappington.
Barga also provided a copy of a complaint that Tims sent to the city on March 28, alleging that on a recent call to assist Nelsonville police officers, one of Tims’ officers smelled a “strong odor” of alcohol emanating from Braglin.
“I was further advised that this is not the only time that they suspected him to be intoxicated while on duty,” Tims wrote. “The consumption of alcohol while on dusty is obviously a grave and serious concern.”