Several instructors at the Franklin County sheriff’s training academy are under investigation for allegedly beating up recruits, including at least one who came away with black eyes and a swollen face.
“There were some allegations made about excessive roughness during training scenarios and we’re looking into the allegations,” Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott said Tuesday.
Instructors fought directly with recruits as they taught them how to counter attacks while maintaining control of their guns, rather than overseeing the recruits while they tested each other, a source with knowledge of the incident told The Dispatch.
The training was not recorded on video, and the training academy did not have medical staff available to treat injuries, the source said.
A photo circulated among law enforcement officials and obtained by The Dispatch shows one recruit with dark bruises under both eyes and abrasions on his face.
Scott said “two or three” recruits have dropped out of the class, the first at the new training facility to receive in-house Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy training. A total of 14 recruits were enrolled in the class as of a Jan. 19 posting on the sheriff’s Facebook page.
The office is investigating whether those recruits dropped out because of the allegations, Scott said.
“I’ve been made aware of an investigation occurring at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office training academy,” said Jason Pappas, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9. “At this time, I am waiting for the investigation to be concluded and upon that time we’ll review the facts of the case to determine what, if any, action needs to be addressed.”
None of the instructors have been placed on leave, and Scott said classes are proceeding as scheduled.
The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a public records request Tuesday, but a source said at least two complaints were filed.
Internal affairs investigators will interview recruits who were in the class and then speak to the trainers.
The sheriff’s training academy at 6373 Young Rd. near Grove City has eight trainers, including three supervisors.
Previously, sheriff’s office deputies were trained to work immediately in the jail and then pursue outside classes that allowed them to do police work that required carrying a gun. The new training facility is set up to prepare recruits for patrol and other roles over the course of a four-month curriculum.
Part of that training includes “ground fighting” and “weapons retention.” In ground-fighting scenarios, recruits are shown how to get away from an attacker once they’ve been taken to the ground and still hold onto their guns.
At the Columbus police training facility, instructors demonstrate techniques and then let recruits practice on each other while giving them pointers, a source said. Instructors at the Franklin County facility fought directly with recruits.
Columbus police record their training scenarios, and medical staff is available to treat injuries. The sheriff’s office didn’t record the training, and a source said no on-site medical treatment was available.
State rules do not require training academies to record training sessions, provide medical attention or dictate whether instructors should engage with recruits, said Jill Del Greco, a spokeswoman for Ohio attorney general’s office.
“Generally, we leave that up to the academies to decide,” she said.
Scott said the training academy follows the requirements outlined by the state curriculum. Instructors engaged directly with recruits because new deputies often “don’t maintain good enough control, so you get more injuries because of the lack of their own personal training.”