Brendan Johnson had spent the last 16 years working for the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department in the county jail. The first ten of those came as a corrections officer. The last six, since a promotion in September of 2010, as a supervisor — corrections officer corporal. That all ended on June 23, 2016, when he was fired after repeated use of excessive force against inmates in his protection.
Two of those incidents occurred in the same week of March earlier this year.
The details, as spelled out in a dismissal letter from the county's HR department and obtained by Scene
through a public records request, are disturbing, to say the least. They include using "pepper foam" on two female inmates without provocation and aggressive, egregious physical violence despite the lack of any threatening behavior from the victims.
"On or about May 11, 2016, an inmate alleged [sic] was being physically assaulted while in your custody," the letter reads. "Upon review of the surveillance footage dated May 8, 2016, you were observed deploying oleoresin capsicum "pepper foam" on said inmate in the face and head area without provocation and without giving any verbal instructions or direction prior to deployment. Immediately preceding the incident the inmate simply stated that she did not want to speak with you and was looking down at the floor, posing no threat to you. Your actions were abusive and unnecessary. After you pepper foamed the inmate you stated 'I told you I'd get you.'"
A second similar incident is noted in the letter.
"Upon review of surveillance dated May 10, 2016 for another inmate who was placed in lockup, you responded to a backup call in which you gave instruction and directions to this inmate who appeared to comply. However in the midst of this inmate undressing you swept her legs from beneath her and abruptly and forcefully dropped her to the floor. You then deployed pepper foam to her facial area. Again, the inmate posed no threat to you prior to your actions."
The county's Director of Human Resources, Egdilio Morales, sums up the actions thusly in the certified letter: "Your behavior was egregious and completely unacceptable. For the reasons stated herein, you are terminated from employment with Cuyahoga County."
The dismissal came after Johnson was placed on paid administrative leave on May 18 as the allegations surfaced and an investigation began.
But it wasn't the first time Johnson was cited for using excessive force on the job. Just a year prior, he was placed on a three-day unpaid suspension from August 10 through August 12, 2015. The reason for that suspension is noted in another certified letter from the county.
"On or about April 14, 2015, a public records request was submitted to the Sheriff's Department on behalf of a previous inmate who claimed he was injured while in custody on March 9, 2015. Upon review of surveillance footage in the Medical dispensary area, you were observed taking hold of an inmate by his shirt, pulling him from his chair, and dragging him across the floor out of view of camera. This use of force could have been avoided had you given the inmate an opportunity to comply with your verbal orders, which, was established, were not given and afforded to the inmate."
Johnson's HR file includes years of exemplary and above average reviews from his superiors. In recent years, Sergeants tasked with reviewing his work gave him excellent ratings across the board and recommended he take the sergeants exam for further promotion opportunities. His 2015 mid-year review notes: "Cpl. Johnson is [sic] a excellent supervisors and [sic] manager his ability to handle multiple situations, along with his communication skills have [sic] aloud him to [sic] standout among his fellow Corporals. I would like to see you take the Sergeant exam. Take more of a role in working with the junior Corporals."
The letters referenced above as well as the review are below.