CINCINNATI — Capt. Mike Savard's attorney claims it's common within Cincinnati Police for an officer seeking a promotion to pay a higher-ranking one to retire early and says his client is being unfairly singled out for federal bribery and theft charges.
"The thing that he's accused of is something that goes on all the time in the Cincinnati Police Department and has been going on in police departments across the country for a long time, and no one has questioned it before," attorney Christopher McDowell told WCPO's I-Team on Tuesday.
Savard, a 25-year CPD veteran, retired from the department Monday, McDowell said. In a statement, Savard said: "After 26 years as a police officer with the Cincy PD and 31 years in law enforcement overall, I feel horrible that I have to go out like this."
Savard was arrested last week after being accused of asking for - and taking - $5,000 from a sergeant in exchange for Savard's promise to retire early, clearing the way for the sergeant to be promoted, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
"I have list of people who have paid and people who have been paid ..." McDowell told the I-Team. "It's common knowledge ...
"Sometimes it's money, but sometimes it's a motorcycle or a boat or something like that," the attorney said.
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McDowell said "not everybody does this" and he said Savard "never paid anybody to retire early because he always did good on the test."
McDowell said Savard's action "does not fit the elements for bribery" and claims Savard is "being singled out and harassed."
Savard accepted $5,000 in unmarked bills from the sergeant in a sting operation last Thursday and was immediately arrested by an IRS agent and a Cincinnati police officer, according to U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman, who explained the accused bribery scheme at a Friday news conference.
The sergeant was next on the list for promotion to lieutenant, but his promotion eligibility was going to expire this month, so Savard offered the sergeant a deal: he would retire in June so the sergeant would not need to retake a civil service exam and possibly lose his top position on the list, Glassman said.
During the news conference, Police Chief Eliot Isaac said that he has heard rumors about officers taking payments to retire early, but he believed it was an extremely rare practice.
McDowell said he will present more evidence of the alleged pay-to-retire-early practices at Savard's preliminary hearing later this month.
Savard served one night in the Butler County Jail and was released without paying a bond.
Savard's police powers were suspended in January, though police have not explained why. He remained on duty in the records office.
Savard, of Anderson Township, headed the Cincinnati Police Special Services Section, which includes traffic, motorcycles and K-9s. Savard had been a captain for two years and a lieutenant for 14.
"He has to go out under a cloud after serving the people of Cincinnati for so many years," said McDowell. "He looks forward to fighting this and redeeming his good name."