DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Martins Ferry mayor, police chief speak out on Officer Starkey’s reinstatement to police dept. after racist meme posted

Belmont County

Martins Ferry, Ohio (WTRF) Officer Tim Starkey, relieved of duty on July 29 after posting a racial joke on Facebook, has been reinstated after arbitration was decided in his favor.

Police Chief John McFarland said the arbitration board ruled that the city should have followed the steps of progressive discipline instead of terminating Starkey.

Chief McFarland said Starkey admitted during the arbitration that he made a horrible mistake, that he is sorry for what he did, and if he could take it back, he would.

Belmont County NAACP member Jerry Moore says it would be helpful if Starkey would make that apology to the public as well.

“I think that would go a long way in the healing process,” Moore said. “From the outset, the mayor and the chief have been out in front of this, doing the right thing. The NAACP is extremely glad to be working with the city administration. This is very positive.”

“It (Starkey’s posting of a joke) was one bad decision,” said Mayor Davies. “One action caused all these problems. 

Chief McFarland said Starkey was actually an excellent law enforcement officer, whose cases “were always the best. He was one of the best officers on the force, maybe in the whole county.”

Mayor Davies said he is arranging for racial, gender and cultural sensitivity training for all employees of the city.

He said employees interacting with the public need clear guidelines on how to act on the phone, in person and even on social media. 

Officer Starkey was reinstated to the Martin’s Ferry Police Department with back pay on Dec. 22.

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