Lorain, OH – A 16-year veteran of the Lorain Police Department was fired after an internal investigation determined he’d abused his authority when he temporarily detained his 18-year-old daughter and her boyfriend in his patrol vehicle (video below).
Lorain Police Officer John Kovach told his officials that he’d stopped the car of 18-year-old Makai Coleman because he was worried about his daughter, The Chronicle-Telegram reported.
According to the complaint filed by Lieutenant Dan Smith, Officer Kovach said he believed his daughter to be suicidal at the time, and was trying to find her to take her to the hospital.
He also said that Coleman, his daughter’s boyfriend, had made a social media post that joked about turning his daughter out as a prostitute.
But his department said Officer Kovach took fatherly concern a step too far when he performed a traffic stop in uniform to find out where his daughter was.
“These actions are not acceptable for members of our Police Department and we felt it warranted immediate dismissal,” Lorain Safety-Service Director Dan Given told The Chronicle-Telegram.
The incident occurred just before 6 p.m. on April 16, when Officer Kovach initiated a traffic stop on a car driven by Coleman without notifying dispatch.
The incident was captured by the dashcam mounted in the officer’s patrol unit.
In the video, Officer Kovach pulled over a silver car on a residential street. Then he got out of his patrol vehicle and walked all the way around the vehicle.
The officer stopped and opened the driver’s car door.
“You can get out. You’re going to jail,” Officer Kovach told Coleman in the video.
“For what?” his daughter’s boyfriend asked.
“Just go sit in my car. We’ll make s--t up as we go,” Officer Kovach said as Coleman walked to his police vehicle and got in the back seat without any resistance.
At that point, the passenger in the front seat of Coleman’s car got out, and Officer Kovach rushed over to talk to her, saying he hadn’t told her she could get out of the car.
The video showed Officer Kovach interrogated the girl, asking if her parents knew that his daughter was in their home, and saying that he’d tracked his daughter’s computer to her house.
In the meantime, as this was happening, the dispatcher could be heard calling for Officer Kovach to respond to a call about an armed person at a road rage incident, but the officer appeared to ignore the call, The Chronicle-Telegram reported.
Afterward, the complaint said Officer Kovach told Lt. Dan Smith he had called another officer after receiving the call and had been told his presence wasn’t needed. However, his department said there was nothing in the dashcam video to indicate that he had made any such call.
The video showed the mother of the girl in the front seat and another passenger in the back seat, Gloria Morales, arrived and confronted Officer Kovach about what was happening. The traffic stop occurred directly in front of Morales’ house.
Although the entire exchange cannot be seen on the video, it can be heard it its entirety.
Officer Kovach asked Morales if his daughter was inside her house. Initially, she said he could check. But after he threatened to arrest her if she was lying, Morales told him he could not search her home without a warrant.
Then he threatened to give her daughter an expensive seatbelt ticket, the video showed.
Morales got very upset and said she was going to call 911 and report Officer Kovach.
“Call 911 you’re going to jail. This is not an emergency,” he replied.
Then all of a sudden, the officer spotted his missing daughter in the backseat of the silver car he’d stopped.
“I didn’t even see you. Get out of the car!” he ordered 18-year-old Katlyn Kovach.
He told Morales she could go and take her children with her. And then he marched his own daughter to his police vehicle.
“Goodbye. Goodbye,” Officer Kovach said to Coleman, after he opened the door of the police cruiser, indicating the man should get out of his vehicle.
“Get in my car,” he told his daughter.
“You can’t. You can’t take me. I am 18,” Katlyn argued with her father. An altercation ensued and Katlyn began shrieking as her father shoved her into the back of his police vehicle, the video showed.
“You can’t do this,” she screamed repeatedly.
Coleman tried to argue with Officer Kovach, but the officer shut him down.
"She said she was going to kill herself on Friday. We’re going to the hospital,” Officer Kovach said after he shut the back door.
When he got into the patrol unit and drove away with his daughter, they started arguing over when exactly she’d threatened to kill herself, the video showed.
Lt. Smith and Lorain Police Sergeant Timothy Thompson went to Officer Kovach’s house to place him on administrative leave later that evening. They took his gun, credentials and police vehicle, The Chronicle-Telegram reported.
The department’s internal investigation found that Officer Kovach had violated the department’s standards of conduct when he initiated the traffic stop on Coleman without cause, when he threatened to arrest Morales, when he took Coleman into custody, when he said he would make up charges against Coleman, and when he failed to back up the other officer on tje traffic stop.
They also said Officer Kovach violated policy when he used his police authority to locate his daughter, and when he failed to tell dispatch that he was making a traffic stop, The Chronicle-Telegraph reported.
A panel made up of three captains reviewed the findings of the internal investigation, and referred the matter to the city’s safety service director for disciplinary action because of the severity of the charges.
“Since the chief of police can only discipline personnel by suspension to a level of three days, the board feels strongly that the matter should be moved to the level of Safety Service Director for disciplinary action,” said an interoffice memo obtained by The Chronicle-Telegraph. “This is due to the very serious nature of the violations, which rise to the level of gross misconduct, place the Police Department in a position of liability, and could result in discipline up to and including termination.”
Director Given held a pre-disciplinary hearing on May 9, and served Officer Kovach with notice of termination on May 11, The Chronicle-Telegraph reported.
The Fraternal Order of Police said former Officer Kovach has contested his firing through the grievance process.
Watch the traffic stop involving Coleman and the officer’s daughter in the video below: