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Sheriff’s merit board weighs officer’s fate

A nice guy who can’t do the job.

That’s the picture Allen County Sheriff’s training supervisors paint of Officer Christopher Ley, who is currently suspended and facing termination.

The sheriff’s merit board met Monday during the first day of a two-day public hearing to take testimony from Ley’s fellow officers and trainers as to how he performed on the job.

Board members, who decide on the department’s hirings and firings, are expected to determine Ley’s fate at some point after today’s session.

Ley, who has been in the department for six years, and his lawyer appeared during Monday’s hearing, where a litany of skills needed to be a police officer were laid out.

Skills that Ley, some his training officers said somewhat uncomfortably, completely lacked.

“I’ve never been in this position before,” said Cpl. Mark Reed, who has trained many officers in his career and who ran down Ley’s deficiencies on the job while training him.

“This sucks.”

Reed rode with Ley for several weeks in the department’s warrants division.

He tried to train Ley in dealing with the copious amounts of paperwork that division deals with as well as serving warrants, which can many times take officers into inner-city Fort Wayne.

All the while, these officers are expected to perform the normal tasks of other officers – namely pulling people over if they observe traffic infractions or assisting if they see other crimes occurring.

Ley’s skills with people were very good, Reed said.

He had a knack for getting information about people’s whereabouts from others in the neighborhoods they visited and was always professional.

But Ley’s problems mounted in other areas.

He struggled using the department’s mapping system that got him from Point A to Point B, Reed said.

Ley would get lost, overshoot or undershoot a target house or drive by it several times, giving a person inside whom the police have a warrant for enough time to know officers were closing in.

He also frequently switched off the scanning mode of his police radio, effectively blacking out radio chatter from other departments.

By doing so while driving the southeast side of Fort Wayne one day this past March, he had no idea Fort Wayne Police were involved in a car chase nearby.

He also leisurely passed the car Fort Wayne officers had been chasing, which had been pulled onto a sidewalk with the doors open.

It should’ve been a red flag something was happening, Reed said, but to Ley it didn’t register.

Later, as Fort Wayne squad cars began to arrive in the area, Ley was told that they were looking for that car and that four people had fled from the inside.

“He’s not competent to do this job,” Reed told merit board members.

Sgt. Gary Isley, who tried to train Ley in basic patrol duties for the department, ran into similar problems.

Isley told the merit board that Ley struggled with the map system and could not retain any skills taught him on a consistent basis.

There would be good days for Ley, but they were far outnumbered by the bad days, Isley said.

Ley struggled so much that Isley put him in a car with a veteran officer to just observe how the job is done.

No evaluations, no pressure.

It takes an officer 15, 16 or at most 17 weeks to complete training to become a patrol officer, Isley said.

By the time they gave up on Ley, he had been undergoing training for more than 20 weeks and had not improved.

“He is just not well suited for solo police work in any division,” Isley told the merit board.

Ley was warned about his job performance numerous times, even by Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries.

After being caught in the Fort Wayne Police pursuit unaware of what was going on, Ley was suspended for three days.

Fries also recommended to the merit board he be fired.

The sheriff’s merit board consists of five members.

Three are assigned by the sheriff; the two others are assigned by the officers in the department.

Until they decide whether to fire or keep Ley, he will continue to earn his $47,853 paycheck on a paid suspension.