Author(s): James F. McCarty Plain Dealer Reporter Date: March 6, 2008 Section: Metro
Ten years after Cleveland Patrolman David Smith was gunned down outside a nightclub, his badge will be inducted into a memorial case at police headquarters. It took that long because some members of the Fraternal Order of Police, which oversees the badge memorial, questioned whether Smith died in the line of duty - a requirement for induction.
"It was important that Officer Smith be recognized for his heroic actions," said attorney CraigBashein, who represented Smith's two teenage children. "And it's a win for all police officers who some day may have to take action when they're off duty."
On the night he died, Smith was off duty, having a drink with his dancer girlfriend at The Office, a Euclid Avenue topless club. According to court records, the girlfriend refused to give a lap dance to a patron, Maurice Mackey of Solon.
Smith and Mackey glared at each other. Mackey then left, got a gun and ambushed Smith outside the bar.
Smith, 29, died while gripping his service revolver. Mackey is serving a 13-year prison term for involuntary manslaughter.
At first, the city, state and police pension boards refused to pay Smith's retirement benefits to his children or to allow his name to be carved in the Greater Cleveland Police Memorial at Huntington Park.
Bashein challenged those rulings in court and won. But the courtroom victories did not carry the authority necessary to win Smith's badge a place of honor among the 119 badges of fallen officers contained in three glass cases at headquarters. But, last week, the Badge Case Committee of the FOP voted unanimously to honor their former colleague. On Tuesday, the FOP Executive Committee endorsed the recommendation, approving Smith's tribute with a unanimous vote.
"There were no arguments against him going in," said Sgt. Charles Lane, head of the Badge Case Committee.
Bashein initially blamed Smith's banishment from the badge case on a personal grudge held by Sgt. Rich Kerber, the former president of the FOP. But Kerber denied any feelings of malice, and did not stand in the way of Smith being honored this year.
Bashein said he and Smith's children are willing to move beyond the problems of the past, and are looking forward to the induction ceremony on May 15.
"This is for all the members of the FOP and the police patrolmen's union," Bashein said.
Smith's badge will be placed alongside the badge of Patrolman Derek Owens, who was killed by a gunman Friday night. Owens, 36, a married father of two, was hired in September 1998 - six months after Smith died.