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Columbus Police Chief Recommends Firing Of Two Former Vice Officers

Columbus Police cruiser vehicle
Adora Namigadde

Columbus Police Interim Chief Tom Quinlan says he's recommending the firing of officers Steve Rosser and Whitney Lancaster, both of whom were involved in the now-dissolved Vice Unit.

Quinlan announced his decision at a press conference Wednesday.

Rosser and Lancaster were relieved of duty last year as part of the department's investigation into the Vice Unit. Along with three other officers, they were departmentally charged in July over the arrest of Stormy Daniels at a Columbus strip club.

At the time, Quinlan said the officers violated the division's rules of conduct and would each receive a hearing to determine if they would face discipline.

Columbus Police also recommended Rosser and Lancaster be suspended for 240 hours. In addition, the department recommended suspending Lieutenant Ron Kemmerling and Sergeant Scott Soha for 240 hours and 120 hours, respectively. Commander Terry Moore was given a written reprimand.

Based on that recommendation, Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus will make the ultimate decision about discipline.

Following her July 2018 arrest at Sirens strip club, Daniels filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the department. Daniels alleged that Vice officers were “politically motivated” to arrest her in retaliation for a lawsuit she filed against President Trump. An internal police investigation found the arrests were “improper”but were not pre-planned or politically motivated.

In April, six former workers at the strip club Kahoots filed a federal lawsuit against Rosser and Lancaster, saying they were unjustly arrested. Attorneys say the women were targeted as retaliation for the club firing a police informant.

The Vice Unit was eliminated in March, and replaced this summer with the Police And Community Together (PACT) Team. An FBI investigation into the Vice Unit is ongoing.

Timeline: Investigation Of Columbus Police Vice Unit

At Wednesday's press conference, Quinlan and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien also announced criminal charges against detective Amy Walsh for dereliction of duty.

Walsh, a 24-year veteran, reportedly failed to process evidence in multiple cases. In one instance, she reportedly deactivated a kidnapping case despite possessing evidence that could have led to a prosecution.

"The next case was a sexual assault investigation where the detective failed to submit a lab request for a sexual assault exam kit," Quinlan said.

An internal review and subsequent search discovered people's wallets, cell phones and other potential evidence stored in her desk. Quinlan also says they found at least 13 instances of Welsh being clocked in but not at work.

According to Quinlan, the investigation into Walsh came out of the division's new "conviction integrity review process." Walsh has been relieved of duty and could face termination.

This story will be updated with more information.

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.