The Columbus Dispatch


Tuesday, July 31, 2001
NEWS   01B

By Dean Narciso
Dispatch Police Reporter

Illustration: Photo

An officer whom Columbus Police Chief James G. Jackson wanted to fire for lying instead faces a 30-day suspension without pay, a decision that has angered her immediate supervisor.

"We're all terrified of the precedent this will hold,'' said Sgt. Patricia J. Ryan, who supervised the suspended officer, Lisa Perry.

"The chain of command and the chief did everything right. It reflects so badly on the division that someone who lies and files fraudulent charges is allowed to carry the badge,'' Ryan said.

Several of Perry's colleagues were outraged when they learned of the decision, she said.

In May, Jackson recommended that Perry, who's been with the division 4 1/2 years, be fired for filing a false stalking charge against another officer.

On Friday, Safety Director Mitchell Brown notified Perry that he was suspending her.

"I don't discuss discipline, that's all,'' Brown said yesterday before a City Council meeting.

According to police documents, an eight-month investigation of Perry was reviewed by Ryan and by Perry's lieutenant, commander and deputy chief. They all agreed she had lied not only to her supervisors but also to a Franklin County assistant prosecutor when she filed the stalking charge against former Officer Frank Nichols.

Perry, 28, and Nichols, 36, had dated off and on -- Nichols said between February 1999 and July 1999 -- but the relationship ended.

On Sept. 8, 1999, she filed a charge of menacing by stalking against Nichols, and he was arrested the same day.

However, police officials said a polygraph taken by Perry indicated she had lied about the stalking. A prosecutor also said Perry lied about things such as having to see a psychiatrist because of Nichols' alleged stalking.

The stalking charge was dropped.

Three days before Brown announced Perry would be suspended, Jackson issued a memo to officers warning them of "strong consequences'' if they are caught lying.

"I believe that an officer's word must be above reproach,'' Jackson wrote. "The fabric of our judicial system requires that officers must tell the truth in any matter, no matter how difficult or embarrassing the situation.''

The Police Division's legal adviser, Kelly Castle, said she informed Jackson recently about a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could be used to impeach the courtroom testimony of officers who have a history of lying.

The ruling came up recently in a federal case in which an officer's history of lying was used to challenge his credibility.

"One could argue that an officer charged with lying is no longer a use to the division,'' Castle said.

Perry could not be reached for comment, but Ron Snyder, her attorney through Capital City Lodge No. 9 of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the 30 days is a strict punishment, considering her clean discipline history.

"In my experience, 30 days is about as severe as they get, short of removal. It's very severe,'' Snyder said. "Sometimes you're going to have people who have different representations of the same event.''

Perry contends that she was truthful all along, he said, and didn't lie on a polygraph test she took a year ago.

However, her results showed "a deliberate attempt at deception,'' polygraph operator Philip Osborne wrote.

Snyder said Perry has no plans to appeal her suspension.

Nichols said his life unraveled after Perry made the allegation.

During the investigation, he was reassigned to an observation tower at the city's impound lot working third shift. While there he began to drink, he said.

Last spring, while off duty, he crashed his car into another vehicle on W. Broad Street. He refused a Breathalyzer test and his license was suspended for 180 days. He also was ordered to serve three days in rehabilitation.

Facing possible termination on a drunken-driving charge, Nichols resigned from the division after five years. He now teaches scuba diving in Honduras.

"I quit because I was ashamed,'' Nichols said yesterday. "My name was dragged through the mud. I was just very embarrassed, and I started drinking heavily.''

Officer Lisa Perry lied when she filed a stalking charge, a polygraph test indicated.

All content herein is 2001 The Columbus Dispatch and may not be republished without permission.