Chris Becker’s Legacy: Lawlessness and Sex for Sale

Tim Tolka
5 min readMay 28, 2024

There are no checks or balances in Trumbull County, Ohio. The Warren police operate with a free hand. They are so powerful that when it comes to their vices, they just can’t help themselves. There are few places in the USA where the fear of the police is so pervasive and overpowering. Nobody will stand up to them, least of all the prosecutor’s office, where Chris Becker came up under District Attorney Dennis Watkins.

“In the Warren where I grew up, a police officer could do anything he wanted to do to you and you had no recourse, no one you could go to.”

These are the haunting words of Fred Harris, the former Director of Public Safety, who held the position Doug Franklin used to hold. Harris wasn’t able to get elected as Mayor because he was too much of a troublemaker, too much of an activist against the power of the Warren police. Doug Franklin kept his head firmly planted in the sand, so he was a shoo-in for higher office, where he has done exactly jackshit to change the corrupt and unjust state of affairs.

Today, much like when Fred was growing up, there is widespread injustice and abuse of power in Trumbull County. Because no one in City Hall or the criminal justice system holds law enforcement accountable, they run roughshod over residents’ rights.

That was the case with Michael Edwards, Jr., a cop who couldn’t control his sex addiction, and neither could his wife, also a Warren cop.

She tried to stop her husband from going to the sex worker who Edwards is now charged with raping, along with at least three other victims. Oh wait, make that six — because more women came forward!

Edwards is facing 24 counts, including sexual battery, theft in office, dereliction of duty, extortion, gross sexual imposition, and menacing by stalking.

Edwards used the badge to subdue them, and in Warren, the badge is everything. It’s a license to abuse everyone else with an implicit guarantee that the prosecutor’s office will always be on your side, no questions asked.

Prosecutor Chris Becker must have questioned a hundred lying cops, taking their word as gospel. Did he give you permission to search his vehicle? Yes. Did she resist arrest? Yes. Did he make you fear for your life? Yes.

And let’s be real: the only reason Edwards was charged is because the sex worker was clever enough to capture the rape on video. Obviously, this wasn’t the first time he had raped her, and she had had enough. Without the video, she would suffer the same profound injustice so many sex workers in Trumbull County have suffered over the years, as she knew only too well.

No one would believe her, least of all Chief Eric Merkel who is shocked, SHOCKED! and dismayed by Edwards’ conduct.

“It’s hard to put [my disappointment] into words,” Merkel told a local news outlet. “There’s a ripple effect of what happens here between the officer, his family his children, the police department, it’s just a total wreck.”

Notice he forgot to mention the victims, which is incredibly revealing about who is on his mind. He’s worried about the officer, his family, and his department. He also didn’t specifically criticize the officer. He didn’t sound angry at all. Anger would have at least indicated that perhaps this case will spur serious changes at the police department. That might have comforted some of the female population who feel the risk lawless men pose (with or without bades) when they fear no consequences for abusing their power.

There is more than one brothel in Warren, Ohio, and they have operated for decades with the full knowledge and approval of law enforcement. We know this because… we’re not stupid. Once in a while, law enforcement would do an operation in collaboration with other state forces, as in 2012, when Cleveland.com covered a major raid.

John Caniglia wrote, “In the past year, men from Amherst to Westlake drove to Warren, where they paid for a variety of sex acts at eight massage parlors, investigators say. The customers helped make the city the region’s hub of health spas, businesses that have thrived in a community that has struggled since its industrial base collapsed.

So, eight massage parlors had turned into brothels, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the cops knew exactly what was going on. These kinds of operations cannot exist in a small town like Warren without everybody knowing.

This is not even the first time that a police officer has been caught frequenting a brothel, either. In one previous instance, when Bowers was chief, a high-ranking Warren officer was filmed by a neighbor in a sexual act at a brothel, and his punishment was that he couldn’t drive an unmarked car afterward. Who says the WPD doesn’t have standards? Luckily for that officer, the whole story was covered up.

Back in 1996, the Warren Tribune Chronicle published an investigative series called “Disorderly Conduct.” In the process of the investigation, the Tribune had taken the WPD to the Ohio Supreme Court in order to get access to the WPD’s records of internal investigations. The Tribune prevailed and the WPD had to turn over hundreds of incriminating reports, one of which detailed a victim who said she was sexually assaulted by two Warren police officers, one of whom was Chuck List. Her story was left to “linger and die” in the files of the WPD, in the words of former Chief Hutson, kept secret, and no one was punished, of course.

For astute observers, it was no surprise when Merkel said, “It’s not often you have a victim of this type of crime come forward to the police department and let them know that one of your officers may have allegedly committed this and we commend her for that.”

When a law enforcement agency disbelieves victims unless they offer video evidence, that agency runs the risk that these sorts of crimes are committed by police officers right under the chief’s nose. John Mandopoulos, the late chief, could have told Merkel that.

Merkel added he did not believe Edwards’s body-worn camera was turned on during the alleged incident. Another big surprise. However, an intrepid reporter in Trumbull County might venture to ask, if they existed, “Why would Edwards turn on his bodycam when other officers have never been punished for turning theirs’ off when they commit crimes?

We may never know because no reporter in Trumbull will lift a flaccid finger to poke a hole in the lies spouted by local public officials, least of all the police. Why? Because: FEAR. It is well known that Warren police can make people disappear or go to prison whether innocent or guilty. This is especially known in the Black community.

All this brings me back to Chris Becker. He had a hand in the lawlessness of the WPD because he refused to prosecute cops, alongside Dennis Watkins, during decades. The fact that this is the first major prosecution of a cop for rape in a town with a good half dozen brothels tells you all you need to know.

It’s time for change, and Sarah Kovoor, Becker’s opponent, has prosecuted sexual predators as a prosecutor and defended victims of sexual assault while in private practice. She’s running on the Republican ticket, so local Democrats would be well advised to split their ticket.

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Tim Tolka

Author, screenwriter, and journalist. Author of Blue Mafia. IL, LA, CO, TX, FL, VA, NYC, DC, and SF. https://www.timtolka.com/