Amid petition, controversy, new police chief sworn in

Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — Mary Lebowski isn’t happy with her city’s new police chief’s past, but said he paid for the crime and deserves another chance.

“Who doesn’t have things in their past that aren’t so pleasant?” she said of Brian Klonowski, who was expected to become police chief Aug. 27.

Lebowski is not among the 1,600 residents who recently signed a petition to recall police Klonowski before he begins the job.

“Obviously, someone saw fit to put him where he is,” resident James Oberlin said. “All this BS is taking away from police protecting the streets. What’s done is done. Let it go and let’s move one.”

City Council appointed Klonowski Aug. 17. Yet, an incident in 2004 of him allegedly hitting a woman who refused his advances is haunting him. He was convicted of a misdemeanor for the 12-year-old assault.

Klonowski was sworn in Thursday, yet supporters of the victim, Gina Falconer, wish he wasn’t. They say that in April 2004 Klonowski made advances toward her while serving as a police officer at an April 2004 party. When she didn’t reciprocate, he assaulted her.

“Officer Klonowski yanked Gina out of her chair by her shirt … Threw her to the ground … Restrained her by sitting on top of her, and began punching her in the face … It took four people to get Officer Klonowski off of Gina. She suffered a hemorrhage to her eye, a broken nose and a broken bone above her eye,” wrote a person identified as Concerned Citizen who started the petition drive.

Klonowski was arrested and charged with aggravated assault. He pleaded no contest to the charge in August 2004 and put on probation. He returned in January 2005 as an officer.

“In a time when police brutality is such an issue, why would they appoint someone who has been convicted of it?” resident Eric Samanski asked.

Calls to Mayor Joseph Kuspa’s office were deferred to the city manager’s office. City Manager John Zech did not return calls as of press time.

(Tereasa Nims can be reached at