Wintersville, Ohio served as the model for my main setting as Richfield, North Columbia in Lord of Columbia’s First Trilogy, but it was really police brutality facts in neighboring Steubenville, Ohio that set the basis for Southpoint’s imperial forces. For many of you out there, you might know the City of Steubenville for another, even more corrupt reason due to an event that reached international headlines in 2012 and while theories persist about a potential cover up between the City’s police force and Steubenville City Schools, we need to go back even further in the city’s history to discover shocking and horrifying details about its police force, which has seen numerous cases of corruption since 1990.
Facts About Steubenville
For those who don’t know, Steubenville is an old mill town whose heyday has long since evaporated. Gone are the mills that allowed the city to thrive and gone are the jobs that gave the town’s economy a boom six decades ago. The Fort Steuben Mall sits two-thirds of the way empty, and the town’s two hospitals are panned for providing sub-par care, drawing similarities to government hospitals in South Africa.
The town was named after Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben and was founded in 1795 on the site of the Old Fort Steuben, where a replica of the Fort stands today. It is also known as the City of Murals, many of which can still be seen downtown. It is the home of Dean Martin and DiCarlo’s Pizza, and to this day continues to serve as the county seat to Jefferson County.
The city’s reputation for police corruption has always served as a plague, with the city losing 48 civil cases regarding its police force from 1990-1996 and in that timespan, paid out a grand total of $400,000 in taxpayer dollars in lost civil cases, with $800,000 total over the course of 20 years.
These actions caught the attention of the Department of Justice (DoJ), where in an official document linked to the bottom of this article stated the following factual allegations regarding its police:
a. excess force in effecting arrests or detaining persons suspected of engaging in criminal activity
b. excess force against individuals in custody (including persons handcuffed or otherwise physically restrained)
c. excess force against individuals by police officers who are off-duty and involved in private disputes but acting under color of law.
From at least 1990 to the present, officers engaged and continue to engage in patterns or practices of falsely arresting and charging persons in Steubenville. These false arrests and charges include, but are not limited to:
a. false arrests or charges against persons who witness incidents of police misconduct, who are known critics of the town’s police force, or who are disliked by individual officers;
b. false arrests or charges against persons the police believed complained of police misconduct
c. false arrests or charges against persons who behave disrespectfully but non criminally to police officers.
From at least 1990 to 1997, officers engaged in other misbehavior, including, but not limited to:
a. falsifying official reports;
b. tampering with official police recorders so police misconduct is not recorded;
c. improperly searching dwellings or places of business without lawful consent
d. improperly seizing property of persons arrested or stopped without lawful authority for such seizures.
From at least 1990 to the present, the City of Steubenville, the SPD, and the City Manager caused and condoned the acts of individual officers, through their acts or omissions. These acts or omissions included, but were not limited to the following:
The City defendants failed to implement a policy on use of force and off-duty behavior that appropriately guide the actions of individual officers.
The City defendants failed to train officers adequately to prevent the occurrence of misconduct.
The City defendants failed to supervise officers adequately to prevent the occurrence of misconduct.
The City defendants failed to monitor adequately officers who engage in or who are likely to engage in misconduct.
The City defendants failed to investigate adequately civilian complaints and other allegations of police misconduct.
The City defendants failed to discipline officers who engage in misconduct.
The City defendants condoned or encouraged retaliation against individuals who complain of misconduct by officers or by the Steubenville Police Department as a whole.
You look at this and you can openly wonder why the City of Steubenville and its surrounding areas are staunch thin blue line backers, where bumper stickers, graphics, flags, and memorabilia indicate the town still, even after such corruption, continues to support its police force.
It’s become a case of Stockholm Syndrome at the very least, as every time I take a ride into town, I’m bound to see at least a few thin blue line backers during my travels.
Why Nobody Trusts Steubenville
The above heading is the title from an article I came across that was first published in The Atlantic Wire by Alex Abad-Santos, written when Steubenville reached international headlines for all the wrong reasons in late-2012-early-2013.
The article begins with one word: Corruption. Such a word leads to an article that spoke of a cover-up over the unfortunate case that stretched from the legendary Steubenville Big Red Football Team to its local police force to the prosecutor’s office. Such allegations attracted the attention of the hacktivist group, Anonymous, who went on to lead multiple protests in the town in 2013.
The article goes on to post a timeline regarding Steubenville, from the time the town was known as Little Chicago between the 1940s and 1960s when the city was known for its excess organized crime, crooked politics, and gambling joints. The timeline continues into the 1990s, addressing the town’s police corruption from the United States DoJ:
The United States brings this action to enforce Section 210401 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141. The United States alleges that officers of the Steubenville Police Department have engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured and protected by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and that the City of Steubenville, the Steubenville Police Department, and the Steubenville City Manager (in his capacity as Director of Public Safety) have caused and condoned this conduct through inadequate policies and failure to train, monitor, supervise, and discipline police officers, and to investigate alleged misconduct.
The article goes on to address longtime Sheriff of Jefferson County, Fred Abdalla and police chief, William McCafferty, the latter of which supposedly had massive amounts of trouble gathering eyewitness accounts regarding the incident that occurred in August 2012.
However, Anonymous uncovered a link of close ties between Abdalla and Steubenville Big Red head coach, Reno Saccoccia, which suggested Abdalla played a role in deleting key video evidence regarding the case. Note that this is NOT the first time Abdalla had been accused of corruption and primary sources have informed me over the years that disappearances looking to expose Abdalla’s corruption were also common once upon a time. With his own son acting as deputy sheriff, the Abdalla family is looking to continue its vice grip in Jefferson County.
Finally, the article suggests that the victim in the 2012 case had trouble speaking with the prosecuting attorney for Jefferson County, who also happened to be the mother of then high school football star Charlie Keenan, who threw the party where the incident took place.
Steubenville is just one of many small towns (population < 20,000) where city officials are closely linked to its high school and police force, and from my own observations (I’m from Steubenville) local business owners. It forms a cartel-like hold over the city where the small minority conduct sovereignty over the majority and the two cases described above, one in 1997 and the second in 2013, confirms that corruption continues to exist.
But what about other small towns in the US?
Are there similar cases, or are the cases yet to be uncovered?
Are people afraid to speak up? Or are they too intimidated to speak up?
There are more questions than answers at this point.