Fremont police chief suspended 5 days for 'micro-aggressive' statements

2 months ago The News-Messenger

Fremont police chief suspended 5 days for 'micro-aggressive' statements

Derek Wensinger disciplined for comments about an officer's race and gender

Fremont's chief of police will serve a five-day suspension for statements he made to an officer that were termed "micro-aggressive," Mayor Danny Sanchez said in a statement released Thursday.

Chief Derek Wensinger had been placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 30 for "alleged violation of work rules and policies," according to a letter Safety Service Director Ken Frost delivered to Wensinger on that date.

The chief faced possible termination depending on the findings of an independent investigation, Frost wrote in his letter to Wensinger. "The discipline, if any, to be imposed will be determined by the appointing authority."

A name-clearing hearing to provide Wensinger with an opportunity to respond had been scheduled for Jan. 12, then rescheduled for Friday, Jan. 20. But Sanchez said in the news release that he held an administrative meeting on Thursday, a day early, with Wensinger and Frost.

"In the meeting we discussed and reaffirmed the city's position of refraining from making micro-aggressive statements," Sanchez said. "After considering information provided by Chief Wensinger, a Group II-First Offense for 'Neglect of or careless failure to serve employer rules, regulations, policies, and procedures" was issued and other allegations have been dismissed. He will serve a five-day suspension."

Wensinger had acknowledged that he told an officer at the police academy in April 2022 that "they would have a hard time in law enforcement because of their race and gender," according to a document from Frost titled "Notes on Chief's Performance," obtained by the News-Messenger through a public records request.

The chief then "defended his comment to the officer by saying, 'but it's true.'" Frost wrote that "it was explained to Derek that no comments that could produce a negative effect should ever be made in reference to a person's race, religion or sexual orientation," Frost wrote.

Frost stated that Wensinger allegedly said the same thing to the officer during a meeting on Nov. 28, that "they would have a hard time because of their race and gender." He was placed on leave two days later and Clemans Nelson & Associates, a labor relations firm based in Lima, was hired to conduct the investigation.

Sanchez said in Thursday's administrative meeting that Wensinger "spoke regarding the importance for the community to understand the complex barriers faced by those who represented historically marginalized populations."

The chief "will implement inclusive department strategies to continue the forward momentum of the police department's vision 'to provide a safe city for all people,'" Sanchez said in the release.

Wensinger joined the Fremont Police Department in 2010 as a patrol officer, was promoted to detective sergeant in 2016, and was named interim chief of police in April, 2022, after the retirement of Dean Bliss. He took over as chief on June 3 and is still in his one-year probationary period.

A 1999 graduate of Fremont Ross High School, Wensinger attended Ohio Northern University and served on the Fostoria Police Department from 2006 to 2010.

Sanchez and Wensinger went to the police academy together in 2005.

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