NEW PHILADELPHIA — A former New Philadelphia police officer who now lives in Akron is featured prominently in a USA Today Network investigation into officers who became chiefs of police or sheriffs despite findings of serious misconduct.
David Cimperman — who was fired twice from the New Philadelphia Police Department but reinstated both times — was later hired as chief of police in the village of Amsterdam in Jefferson County in 2015. He has since been fired, but not before he allegedly forged the mayor's signature to add more than 30 officers to the police force for the town of 500 people.
The USA Today Network found that many of those officers never performed police work, but instead worked for a private security business state investigators say Cimperman ran on the side. Riot gear and surplus military equipment he bought with taxpayer money is missing.
"Cimperman’s journey from disgraced police officer to police chief is a surprisingly common one, a USA Today Network investigation found," the network said. "Misconduct that might disqualify someone from being hired as a rookie cop hasn’t stopped officers from taking the top jobs at law enforcement agencies throughout the USA."
Cimperman was hired as a police officer in New Philadelphia in 1994. Three years later, he destroyed a 3-week-old police cruiser. He was chasing a motorcycle for a left of center violation when he crashed the cruiser into a footbridge at Sherrodsville Village Park off state Route 39. He was unable to open the door of the overturned cruiser, so he fired a shot through a window to escape.
He was suspended for 10 days.
In 2001, Cimperman was fired after he was accused of illegally tampering with department radios. "State investigators found that he’d paid a company to reprogram three of his own radios to work on the city’s police radio network, something state and federal laws forbid," the report found.
Five months later, a labor arbitrator put him back on the force, saying Cimperman deserved to be suspended but not fired.
He was fired a second time on Aug. 24, 2001, for untruthful testimony in a drug-related case. In 2002, an arbitrator ruled that Cimperman should get his job back, and the arbitrator also awarded him back pay, amounting to about $50,000.
"More issues followed: Officials said he violated the department’s time-off policy, failed to turn in traffic tickets, drove recklessly and didn’t show up to the trial of an accused sex offender (who was eventually convicted)," the USA Today Network investigation found.
Cimperman retired from the New Philadelphia Police Department in 2012.
Police Chief Michael Goodwin told the network that he had launched an investigation into Cimperman over "irregularities in the inventory" of surplus equipment that the military had donated to the department through a federal program. Goodwin said Cimperman was given a choice — retire or face possible prosecution. Cimperman chose retirement.
When Cimperman was hired as Amsterdam's police chief in 2015, the mayor called his references, "but admits he didn’t do a thorough background check, or even much of a Google search before giving him the job. Nobody called his old bosses," the USA Today Network reported.
"Such lapses aren’t unusual. The USA Today Network found that many departments — especially small ones — lack the wherewithal to dig into the pasts of prospective police chiefs or simply had so few candidates that they couldn’t afford to care."
The network said it left Cimperman repeated emails and voicemails and visited his home in Akron. None were answered.