On Heels of McGrath Disaster, Safety Director Fires Cleveland Cop Who Failed 2018 Drug Test


  • Sam Allard / Scene
Cleveland Police Officer James Hummell has been officially terminated for internal charges related to a random drug test in 2018, the City of Cleveland announced Monday evening.

In his termination letter, signed by Safety Director Karrie Howard, Hummell was found guilty of two internal counts: failing a drug test and carrying a firearm in a police vehicle while under the influence.

As was reported in 2019, Hummell had been criminally charged for having cocaine in his system and having a firearm while intoxicated. City prosecutors dropped the charges for unknown reasons.

Cleveland Police spokeswoman Jennifer Ciaccia told Scene Tuesday that in this case, as in other internal investigations, the administrative review began after the criminal case had been adjudicated. Both the criminal charges and the internal review stem from the same drug test in August, 2018.

Two bits of context are worth mentioning here.

One: Hummell's termination follows closely on the heels of a scathing report by Federal Consent Decree Monitor Hassan Aden, which found that former Safety Director Michael McGrath was systematically lenient in meting out punishment to police officers.

The report found that McGrath almost always opted for the lowest punishment available on the Cleveland Police "disciplinary matrix" and rarely provided rationale for these decisions. He was particularly unwilling to punish dishonesty in officers. 

McGrath's serial inability to hold his own officers accountable, according to the Monitor, made it impossible to repair relations between the community and the police. In sharp contrast with the report, Mayor Frank Jackson has long defended McGrath specifically because of his ability to hold police accountable. Jackson even promoted McGrath after the #137shots scandal in 2012 because, he said, without McGrath, there would have been no internal accountability. 

Current Safety Director Karrie Howard, no doubt aware of McGrath's shortcomings and the Monitor's watchful eye, may be eager to prove that he's unafraid to adhere to the disciplinary matrix. In Hummell's termination letter, Howard said he agreed with the hearing officer — a hearing was held in June — and that aggravating factors included multiple Group III violations (the most severe) in the same incident and a "presumption of termination for members who test positive for [redacted, but presumably cocaine.]"

The second is that Hummell was in the lead police cruiser for much of the infamous chase of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams which resulted in the #137shots murders on Nov. 29, 2012. In an official interview with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation later that year, Hummell expressed discomfort with CPPA Union President Jeff Follmer, who'd advised him to keep quiet about his belief that the lengthy pursuit was likely started by a backfiring vehicle.

Hummell was first hired by the Cleveland Police in May, 2001. Before his drug test results, he had been a basic patrol officer in the Second District. He has been on restricted duty during his administrative review.

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