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Sheriff, state looking into allegations of misconduct against Ohio island's police department


PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio — Allegations of unlawful arrests and heavy-handed tactics against police in the Lake Erie island resort town of Put-in-Bay are being investigated by a county sheriff and a state agency.

Numerous complaints from residents and business owners on South Bass Island sparked the investigation into the police department, said Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick.

While the sheriff would not reveal details about the investigation, island residents have told local media outlets that police have harassed specific businesses and used excessive force in some cases.

Put-in-Bay police Chief Ric Lampela told The (Toledo) Blade that he welcomed the investigation and is confident his department has done nothing wrong. "I do not think there will be criminal charges against any officers," he said.

The Put-in-Bay police department has a small year-round staff, but hires a number of seasonal officers to deal with the busy summer tourist season.

The island, with a few hundred year-round residents, sees its population swell in the summer, turning the village of Put-in-Bay into a rowdy resort town popular with boaters, bachelor parties and college students. One of the ferry lines that takes visitors to the island sells around 10,000 round-trip tickets on summer weekends.

The sheriff said the police department investigation, which is being assisted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, began about two weeks ago and is in the early stages.

"When I kept getting more allegations of misconduct, I contacted two other agencies: BCI and a federal agency, which has since dropped off," Levorchick said.

The Sandusky Register reported that investigators are reviewing the arrests of three Put-in-Bay Resort employees that took place nearly a year ago. Employees said they were arrested after they refused to speak with police officers out of view of the hotel's security cameras.

The newspaper reported other allegations include excessive force by officers and unlawfully impounding rental golf carts.

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