Chalk this up to a crash-and-burn for free speech. Last November, a local police officer was spotted wearing a pro-Issue 3 button while in uniform. Mixing politics with policing may seem like a fair reason to raise concern — but remember Issue 3 was the blitz to legalize marijuana. What might otherwise have been a small-change incident blew up. The officer ended up losing his job — and his firing was upheld by a civil service commission this week.
It all started last November when Captain Michael Reinheimer, the second highest guy in Vermilion's police department, went to work as a police auctioneer with a "I Support Legalization 2016" badge pinned to his police jacket, right near his badge. By the next day, the department was fielding complaints about Reinheimer's statement
The captain was put on administrative leave. “Capt. Reinheimer has made no bones about his personal opinions on legalization and on more than one occasion has publicly made them known,” Vermilion Chief Chris Hartung told the Chronicle-Telegram at the time
. “But you cannot advocate for any political issue through your office. You can’t do that as a Civil Service employee.”
For his own part, it seems Reinheimer didn't leave much of a question about where his sympathies lay. In the days following the controversy, a comment popped up on a pro-legalization Facebook page, allegedly from the officer. Per the Chronicle-Telegram, it read:
“I fully support the legalization of marijuana in Ohio,” the message attributed to Reinheimer said. “This button was given to me today before our Police Department’s auction. I proudly wore it on my uniform jacket for the whole auction to show my support. I took this pic (sic) today with my badge to let those who support legalization and to my fellow LEOs (sic) that we all need to stand together in support of a fair and open legalization measure that will provide the best opportunities to the citizens of Ohio. Divided we stand…..Together we RISE (sic).”
That openness may have been his ultimate undoing. This week, the city's Civil Service Commission upheld Reinheimer's firing. The officer, who had been with the department since October 1999, couldn't mount an effective appeal in part because he didn't challenge the testimony lobbied against him, the Chronicle-Telegram reports.
In addition to the weed button, the city justified the firing by turning up incidents where the captain had failed to follow regulations for firearms training.
On Monday, we rang up Reinheimer's attorney, Joseph Jacobs, to discuss what's next for the former police captain. We haven't heard back yet. We'll update this post with new information as it comes in.