A small town in Pennsylvania is trying to get back on track after it was shaken by a major controversy last summer. The hiring of the former Cleveland officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice in 2014 touched off protests and resignations.
“Yes, the town was caught completely off guard by it.” Mayor David Wilcox is talking about the day everything changed in Tioga Borough. July 5th, 2022, the day Timothy Loehmann was sworn in as the town’s new and only police officer.
Loehmann’s hiring was met with protests after it became known that he was the former Cleveland officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice. On November 22, 2014, video shows Officer Loehmann opening fire just seconds after responding to reports of a male waving a pistol at a park. Rice was holding a pellet gun. Loehmann was never criminally charged. He was later fired in 2017 for providing false information on his job application.
“Four council members I believe were very much aware of his background. That information was hid from the rest of us.” said Mayor Wilcox. “Three council members had no idea, along with myself. He had submitted information along with his resume that never made it to the table that everybody saw.”
Loehmann resigned less than two days after being sworn in. Other resignations followed, including the city council president and three other council members.
“So all that had knowledge of his background resigned, along with those council members, our secretary and solicitor also resigned.” said Mayor Wilcox. “From that point on, the ball has been rolling ever since.” The Mayor says all town positions have since been filled, except one.
“Today, how many police officers does Tioga Borough have?” asked 18 News reporter Nick Dubina. “We have no officers. We are covered by State Police at this time.”
Deb Relaford was not part of the town’s leadership when Loehmann was hired. When town officials started quitting, she volunteered to step in and become the new council president.
“We didn’t know anything about it until it all blew up in the news.” said Relaford. “We’re just all volunteers here trying to move the town forward in the right direction, and doing the best that we can, and doling it for the people of the town. We dont have an agenda. Its just to make the town a better place for our kids and the people around.” said Relaford.
“We’re trying our hardest, we’re learning as we go. If we’re making mistakes, point us in the right direction, we will try and correct them. All we can do is be open and honest and try to do what we can do as we are doing it, and just keep going forward is what we wanna do.” Relaford added.
Mayor David Wilcox echoed her sentiment. “We are rebuilding. I believe we are moving in a great direction. We have hired a new code officer, new secretary, appointed the new positions on council as well as the water authority. I would like to continue to see more happening as far as getting another police officer and continue moving in the right direction.”
As for when Tioga Borough will hire a new police officer, Mayor Wilcox says the town is reviewing applications and hopes to start conducting interviews soon.