ID card wait upsets retired deputy

A recently retired Washington County deputy is alleging that his retired peace officer identification card is being unjustly withheld from him.

Lt. Dana Spencer, 64, former division commander of prisoner transport and courthouse security, is the second retired officer to raise questions in recent months as to why he has not received a retired ID card after requesting one.

“I didn’t have any disciplinary issues or any ethics issues, at least from what I’m told,” said Spencer, who had been a paid employee of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office since 2002 and previously had spent 30 years as a parole officer for the state.

The issuance of identification cards for law enforcement officers is called for by both federal and state legislature. However, the laws have left room for interpretation, and nationally some officers have sued agencies to receive their ID cards or concealed carry permits (CCW).

When retired Washington County deputy Jack Brum brought up similar complaints about not receiving his retired ID card in October, he had mentioned a lawsuit as a feasible course of action.

Brum declined to make further comments on the issue for this story.

Spencer’s position was terminated in early December. He was told the reason was financial issues, he said, and then decided to retire.

Spencer’s personnel file simply contains a letter addressed to him stating that his position is being “abolished.”

The file showed no disciplinary action taken against him and only one complaint, lodged against him in 1995 by attendees at a local sporting event.

At the time of his termination, a conversation with Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks had led Spencer to believe he would receive a commission, which would keep his Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) certification valid, said Spencer.

“I got my commission. I think it was Jan. 4 he (swore) me in,” said Spencer.

But Mincks informed him in a February email exchange that his commission would be canceled March 1, said Spencer.

Spencer also thought he would have no problem getting a retired ID, he said.

With a retired peace officer identification card, Spencer’s CCW (Carrying a Concealed Weapon) permit would be valid in all 50 states. Without the card, only 25 other states recognize Ohio’s concealed carry permits.

Spencer was hoping to get his ID before a trip to Colorado, one of the 24 states that does not recognize Ohio’s CCW.

He said in an email to Mincks sent on Feb. 14: “Just checking on the status of receiving a retired ID…I’ll be traveling to Colorado in early March and would like to be legal to carry a firearm in the states I travel (through).”

Spencer emailed Mincks in asking about the status of his retirement and was told the sheriff’s office would need documentation to verify his retirement, he said.

In his response, Mincks did not deny Spencer an ID, but rather asked for some unspecified paperwork.

“I have reviewed your file and will need some documentation to verify your date of retirement,” wrote Mincks.

In an animated, lengthy response Spencer asked what documentation was needed and accused the sheriff of withholding the ID for personal reasons. He also said he may run for sheriff in 2016, although he later said he had no plans to do that.

“The real motivation (to withhold the ID) I believe is my best friend Chris Forshey,” said Spencer, speaking of the former candidate for sheriff who opposed Mincks in the 2012 election before pulling out of the race.

Spencer has yet to receive a reply about what documentation is needed, but the hold-up could be that he needs to be collecting retirement benefits to be considered retired, he speculated.

However, he is waiting to collect the benefits until next year, when he will be entitled to a higher payout on his retirement benefits, he said.

“Since I’m not receiving retired benefits, then I guess (the sheriff’s office) doesn’t consider me retired,” he said.

Mincks, who approves the issuance of retired IDs, declined to talk about why Spencer has not been issued an ID.

“I don’t have any comment about my issuance of retired IDs,” he said.

However, Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick, who signs off on retired IDs for Marietta police officers, said he believes a person would need to be receiving retirement benefits to be considered retired.

The legal definition of “retired” is not included in section 2923.126 of the Ohio Revised Code, which states that “each public agency of this state shall issue a retired peace officer identification card to any person who retired from service as a peace officer with that agency, if the issuance is in accordance with the agency’s policies and procedures.”

McKitrick does not issue many retired IDs, he said.

“To be perfectly honest, I haven’t had a whole lot of people ask for one,” he said.

But he can never recall denying one and would need to have a good reason to do so, he said.

“If somebody retired on a disability for mental illness, I would be very leery of giving someone a retired ID,” he said.

Indeed, the ORC states that a person must not have retired for reasons of mental instability if he or she is to receive an ID.

Previously, Mincks had said that the issuance of retired identification cards is at his discretion and Paul Cox, counsel for the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, said he tends to agree.

“Federal law allows for the department to issue retired officer ID cards. It does not require them to issue them,” he said.

Cox said he was not aware of any Ohio cases where officers were suing for retired ID rights, but that his department, which represents law enforcement officers statewide, could help point someone in the right direction if they were being denied their forms unjustly.

“To the extent that they have a legitimate complaint about their former employer, we would refer them to the appropriate attorney,” said Cox.

Spencer said he has considered contacting an attorney to see what paperwork retired IDs require, but has settled on waiting until he is collecting benefits to try again.

“If I can’t get them then, then what does it take? I would expect when I go in then to get it without an issue,” he said.