Fayette County

City releases report detailing case against fired police officer

The city has released findings that provide details about the Urban County Council's move to fire a veteran police officer earlier this month.

The documents, released to the Herald-Leader earlier this week, include information from Officer Stephanni Roadarmel's supervisors, who followed her in unmarked vehicles during two of her shifts in late July and collected the evidence they presented against her.

The release of the information — a council resolution with findings of fact — is essentially a final verdict in the case. It follows the March 1 hearing in which the council found Roadarmel guilty of the charges of failing to activate her emergency lights and sirens while responding to priority calls, failing to notify a dispatcher of changes in her location and status, and conducting herself in a way that "does not reflect favorably" on the Division of Police. The council voted 9-3 in favor of firing Roadarmel and approved a resolution to that effect March 11.

The findings say that during their investigation, Roadarmel's supervisors said they noticed the following: Roadarmel was slow in responding to calls; she sometimes didn't use her lights and sirens when she should have; she stopped at red lights and stayed with traffic on a call concerning an armed robbery; she avoided taking the most direct route to a scene in some instances; and she gave false information about her location on more than one occasion.

In an interview Tuesday, Roadarmel disputed the city's findings.

Roadarmel said that she was targeted, that officers "lied several times about things," and that she "was terminated for complaining about a gender-based sexual-harassment ordeal."

Susan Straub, spokeswoman for the LFUCG, declined to comment, saying the findings of fact speaks for itself.

Roadarmel said her problems on the force began after she complained to her sergeant in fall 2008 that a fellow officer called her a "bitch" at a roll-call meeting.

She said that officer was not disciplined. Instead, she said, her superiors retaliated by filing the charges against her.

"I've never shirked my duties," she said. "They were trying to fire me. They just basically trumped up all these charges."

In two instances, she said, other officers responded in exactly the same way she did but were not disciplined.

In response to the city's claims about her not using her lights and sirens, Road armel said, "It's extremely dangerous. People stop in the middle of the road. People swerve in front of you because they don't know what you're going to do. I have to weigh that decision in my mind.

"That's how I was trained. Now, it's become how fast can you drive."

In one instance, the report says, Roadarmel did not use her emergency equipment while on a call about a suspicious person. Roadarmel said that situation did not rise to the level of danger that she thought necessary for lights and sirens.

In the case of the armed robbery, she said, another officer had arrived at the scene in less than a minute, so it was not necessary for her to race to the scene with sirens blaring. Instead, she said, she went to look for a "perimeter position" in the area where she could help look for the robbers who had fled.

City documents assert Roadarmel's "rationale was determined by her supervisors to be without merit" in the cases in which she chose not to use her lights and sirens.

In cases in which the city said she had given false information about where she was, Roadarmel said she and other officers might often give a general vicinity of where they are because they might not know exactly which cross street is the closest.

"You're in a moving vehicle," she said. "People don't give their exact, exact location all the time."

In one instance involving a mentally disabled man who was threatening his caregiver with a knife, the city said, Roadarmel "told Communications she was 11/2 miles closer to the ... location than she was." She didn't use her lights and sirens while on the way, stopped at stop lights and didn't take a direct route to the scene on Windyknoll Drive.

The first officer on the scene said that he was there alone for five to 10 minutes before Roadarmel got there to back him up and that she didn't go into the house when he did, even though he thought she was going to.

Roadarmel said she had met the man on an earlier call and knew that he and his caretaker did not get along. She said she did not think the man was as dangerous as other officers made him out to be.

Roadarmel, who had served on the force for about 10 years, would not comment Tuesday about whether she plans to appeal the firing or file a lawsuit against the city.

She was suspended without pay for 30 days in 2005 after she was charged with not following a supervisor's orders to stop a heated public conversation with another officer during the 2004 Roots and Heritage Festival.