Union ask sheriff to take fitness for duty exam after fainting on jail tour

"We are concerned for the interim sheriff’s health, wellbeing, and ability to perform his required duties"


By Kaitlin Durbin
cleveland.com

CLEVELAND — Last week, while touring the jail with the incoming county executive and his team, Cuyahoga County Interim Sheriff Steven Hammett reportedly lost consciousness and fell to the floor, prompting questions about his ability to head the department.

The Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association on Thursday called for the sheriff to be placed on administrative leave until he receives a fitness for duty exam. The same procedure would be required for any other sheriff’s employee who “passed out while working,” a letter from OPBA to Executive Armond Budish and Cuyahoga County Council said.

“As the representatives for over 700 law enforcement officers employed by the sheriff’s department, we are concerned for the interim sheriff’s health, wellbeing, and ability to perform his required duties,” the letter said. “Not only are our member-officers entitled to know that the interim sheriff can perform the essential functions of his job, but so too are the citizens of Cuyahoga County.”

The sheriff later released a statement through the county’s communications office.

“I was under the weather and now I’m fine,” he said.

Sheriff Hammett was touring the jail with Executive-Elect Chris Ronayne, Ronayne’s chief-of-staff Eric Wobser, and the County’s Director of Public Works Michael Dever on Nov. 22.

Hammett and Ronayne were talking while stopped in one of the less restrictive housing pods, as inmates moved around them, when his knees appear to buckle and he falls backward, a video recording of the incident provided to cleveland.com shows. Ronayne attempts to catch him, but the sheriff can be seen hitting the floor hard.

When cleveland.com initially reached out to the county with questions about the incident, Madigan said the sheriff had a sinus infection but indicated any reported fall was minor. A reporter spoke to the sheriff at a council meeting hours later, where he appeared unharmed and in good health.

The county later redacted the fall from the housing unit’s activity log from that day and did not name him in an incident report describing “a staff member appearing to faint,” copies of the records obtained by cleveland.com show. He was taken to be checked out by EMS, according to the report.

“We wish interim Sheriff Hammett nothing but the best as he navigates any possible health issues,” the OPBA’s letter says.

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