The chief of the Tiffin Police Department is now asking for area social media users to stop posting “hateful or bashing comments” against a Tiffin man who was charged after filing a false report claiming police pulled him over and searched him due to Ohio’s stay-at-home order amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Stevens took to the Tiffin Police Department’s Facebook page Wednesday to share the story of 31-year-old Thomas H. Bell, who was charged with falsification, a first-degree misdemeanor, after cooking up a false story about being pulled over by Tiffin PD and “unlawfully searched” amid Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton’s stay-at-home order.
“The purpose of this post was not to SHAME anyone but to give clarification to a situation that went kind of viral the day before and needed to be explained. People do make mistakes and the person was held accountable for it,” Stevens said in a Facebook post on the department’s page Thursday. “His girlfriend personally apologized to us. So that should be the end of it.”
It appears Stevens didn’t anticipate the large amount of engagement his Wednesday post regarding the incident would receive. As of Thursday afternoon, the post had racked up over 350 reactions, 110 comments, and 235 shares.
“We do NOT hold any ill will or feelings towards either of them or anyone as a matter of fact. We simply want to do our job and want everyone to know that we are just doing our jobs. We don’t want to be in a situation where we are having to be looked at as heavy handed or the strong arm of the government,” Stevens continued.
Stevens said he is asking for a “moratorium” on the discussion surrounding the post.
“So, please, I, as your Chief of Police, am asking for a moratorium on the posting of not only this post but overall in general,” Stevens pleaded.
The department stated in the post Wednesday that they took the complaint “seriously.”
“For starters, the complaint of someone pretending to be a police officer falsely is a danger to our community as a whole and it decreases the public’s trust in our own enforcement activities,” the original post from TPD states.
According to the post, three police officers were assigned to investigate the incident as quickly as possible to catch the person responsible for this incident.
One officer took the initial complaint and he was assisted by two other officers who helped him review surveillance video near where the stop allegedly took place.
“A surveillance video was located that showed the scene clearly. The complainant fabricated the entire incident,” the post states. “The complainant’s vehicle can be seen driving without anyone else around, parking, and then several minutes later leaving.”
According to the post, the investigating officer went back and spoke with the adult male complainant. The adult male then came clean and explained that he had fabricated the entire incident.
He explained to the officer that he had been arguing with his girlfriend and he went to get out of the house for a few minutes. When he returned home she demanded to know where he was, and in his panic to avoid arguing with her, he lied to her and said he was pulled over by the police.
“Instead of stopping there, however, he was painted in a corner and he had to double down and continue lying to avoid having to admit that he made up the initial incident. This false statement, once posted on Facebook, turned into an anti-police sentiment over something that never even happened,” the post from Tiffin PD states.
“While we encourage everyone to follow the directive of the Governor and avoid unnecessary trips out into public, you have my word we are not out there asking for papers or documentation for every trip to and from work or the grocery stores. If you see an officer on a traffic stop, it is because the offender committed a traffic or criminal violation only,” the post states.