At a Perry Township trustees’ meeting in April, then-Police Chief Timothy Escola told his bosses that Janine England came highly recommended from her previous employer.
England had been laid off as a corrections officer with the Medina County Sheriff’s Office and applied for a part-time post in Escola’s department.
Escola relied on England’s former boss, Medina County Sheriff Neil Hassinger, as a character witness in hiring the 30-year-old native of Sri Lanka.
“He (Hassinger) called me and said, ‘This is one of the best officers I have seen in my career,’” he told trustees at the April meeting. “I have to agree with him.”
Just after trustees voted unanimously to hire England, Escola asked them to accept a $32,000 grant.
The money, Escola told trustees, would be to upgrade the dashboard video cameras in patrol cars.
Two months later, on June 2, such cameras would catch England kissing, caressing and petting Escola, 57, as he drove a police cruiser to and from Cincinnati to pick up a prisoner.
Last Wednesday, a day before the incident was anonymously reported to township Law Director Charles Hall, England e-mailed Escola.
“It has not been (an) ‘easy’ five days but thanks for standing up for what is right and not allowing three people to attempt to destroy me,” she wrote from her police e-mail account. “It would be an uneven playing field for me to battle alone.
“I just don’t want to be here,” she continued. “I feel like the life was just sucked out of me. Let’s please resolve this today. I can’t go another night with less than two hours of sleep and not being able to eat.”
She then apologized for her hiring, saying it had caused Escola “more grief as a chief than it has done you good.”
“I still don’t know what I did to either one of these people who want to destroy me,” she wrote.
Escola’s reply was short, but to the point.
“You’re welcome, Janine,” he wrote. “You have done a great job here and I’m very proud of you. I apologize for what has gone on, but we will fix it. I hope you get back to yourself soon. This is not right for either one of us.”
A review of the e-mails sent between Escola and England reveals little in the way of their professional or personal relationship.
However, an e-mail from England to Escola just days before the trip to Cincinnati is laced with smiley faces between sentences.
“I felt compelled to write (employee’s name redacted) a thank-you note,” England wrote, referring to a coworker. “I sent it to you too, that way you know I am not all bad and naughty. I do have a kind side too.”
Page 2 of 3 - NO DISCIPLINE
Neither Escola nor England will face discipline for the intimate car ride. Escola offered his resignation Monday, which trustees have accepted.
“She’s under the direct command of the chief of the department,” Hall said as to why England will not be punished and remains on staff. “At this point I’m not aware she has violated any department policy. The responsible party was former Chief Escola in my interpretation of the law.”
England came to the United States from Sri Lanka at age 18 on a tennis scholarship, personnel records show. She has applied for citizenship, and is waiting for her application to be fulfilled, however she does have work privileges.
England attended Jacksonville State University in Alabama, but would receive degrees in criminal justice and elementary education from Huntingdon College in Indiana.
England came to Ohio when she received a health and physical education job with the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.
JOINING THE FORCE
She graduated from the police academy in 2004, and took her first job as an officer at the Montville Police Department outside of Medina in 2006. She left the job a year later and filed a lawsuit against the department for racial and sexual discrimination.
The case was filed in Medina County Common Pleas Court. Her attorney on the case, Gregory Beck, of North Canton, did not return calls Wednesday about the status of the case or the allegations made against Montville officials.
Escola noted, in a background check of England, his initial concern about the lawsuit.
“I could not find one thing in Janine England’s background that would prevent her from being an officer with the Perry Township Police Department,” Escola states in the document. “I was very concerned about the lawsuit that she filed on Montville P.D., but ... it sounds like she has a good case and that she was mistreated.”
Both Escola and England are married. Escola has three daughters. England is married to a deputy with the Medina County Sheriff’s Department, her former employer.
Hall was told Thursday, in a tip that came by way of a phone call and voice message, to look for evidence of the behavior on the cruiser’s camera. He asked Escola for a copy of the video. Escola resigned on Monday.
The camera, mounted on the dashboard, records both the inside of the vehicle and the roadway in front of the cruiser.
The lengthy video of their trip to Cincinnati shows England occasionally leaning over to kiss Escola on the cheek and neck as he drives.
At one point, Escola gently brushes the side of England’s face with the back of his hand. At another, England rubs Escola’s neck and shoulders with her hand and, after the prisoner they picked up has fallen asleep, she moves closer to the chief. England’s hands disappear from view during several stretches of the video.
Page 3 of 3 - Neither England nor Escola could be reached for comment.
Trustee Anna Capaldi said she was not made aware of any improper conduct before the anonymous tip surfaced.
“We can’t do anything about something we don’t know about,” she said. “I was very, very shocked when I was made aware of the situation.”
She said she did not know how someone could know specifics about the cruiser camera.
“I don’t know how it could be,” she said. “Could it be somebody inside the department? I don’t know. It just wish it had been handled better. It was wrong. There is a lot of collateral damage. There are families involved.”