COLUMBIA — Hickman High School Resource Officer Mark Brotemarkle is under investigation by the Columbia Police Department with cooperation from Columbia Public Schools after a fight that occurred around noon Wednesday.
Brotemarkle is being investigated for his involvement in the disturbance.
TYPE OF INCIDENT: Hickman High School Disturbance
CASE #: 2008-13520
DATE & TIME OCCURRED: 10/15/08 @ 12:00 pm
DATE &TIME REPORTED: SAME
INCIDENT LOCATION: Hickman High School
DETAILS OF INCIDENT:
The Columbia Police Department is conducting a Professional Standards Unit investigation into the disturbance at Hickman High School last Wednesday. Detailed information will be released in relation to that investigation when complete.
Emotions run high in the aftermath of incidents like these, and it's difficult to ask for calm and patience when it appears that conclusions are so easy to come to based on seconds of video. Many will decide that no further information is necessary and that immediately pronouncing the police guilty of misconduct is the order of the day.
While many have strong opinions about the officer involved, some based solely on what they saw in these few seconds of video, and about what they hear indirectly about this officer, it may not be widely known that the staff and administration of Hickman High School lamented greatly that Officer Mark Brotemarkle was removed from Hickman as part of the budgetary reassignment of School Resource Officers last semester. They expressed equal delight that he was returned to Hickman when the budgetary decision was reversed.
Officer Brotemarkle is a very proactive School Resource Officer. He historically has the support of the staff, and has on many occasions prevented small problems from becoming big ones. While this may sound like a blanket defense of his actions in this incident, this should not be inferred. I can assure you that a complete, thorough and impartial investigation will be conducted. These comments are to provide perspective for further consideration for those who are open to hearing it.
Little fights quickly become big ones, and lately at Hickman, fights are not ceasing with adult intervention.
We ask for the public's patience and open mindedness while we conduct this investigation. As with all incidents of great public interest, we will release with increased transparency in accordance with the law, our findings when they are reached.
Capt. Tom Dresner
Interim Chief of Police
RELEASE ISSUED: 10/18/08 7:19 PM
The incident led to two student arrests. Until the investigation is complete, Brotemarkle will not be at Hickman, Principal Mike Jeffers said. The decision to remove Brotemarkle from the position was made by the Police Department.
Following the fight, Demetria Stephens, a Hickman parent, began collecting signatures for two petitions, one to remove Brotemarkle from his position as Hickman’s resource officer and one to remove him from the Police Department.
As of 5:30 p.m. Saturday, she had 46 Hickman parent and student signatures on the Hickman petition and 48 signatures on the petition to remove him from the Police Department. She said about five people signed both petitions.
Stephens said she began the second petition because the goal of getting Brotemarkle removed from Hickman is not enough.
“He’s going to be somewhere else with the same type of behavior,” she said.
Stephens said the fight on Wednesday was not the first time she heard of problems.
In the video, Diamond Thrower, the student in the yellow shirt, was thrown to the ground and handcuffed. Thrower had been trying to mediate the fight and was not personally involved, said mentor Ray Magruder, founder of the Rising Star Sports Association.
Magruder said Thrower had been taken to the hospital for neck and back problems Wednesday night. She did not attend school Thursday or Friday due to continued pain, Magruder said.
Promise of thorough investigation
In the release issued Friday, Interim Chief Tom Dresner said Brotemarkle “historically has the support of the (Hickman) staff and has, on many occasions, prevented small problems from becoming big ones.”
Dresner said in the release that a thorough and impartial investigation will be conducted. The Police Department could not be reached for further comment.
The Missourian received a phone call Thursday night that a video of the fight had been posted on YouTube. The video has since been removed, but the 15-year-old sophomore who shot and posted the video did not remove it herself.
“I was told by my friends that they couldn’t find it. I didn’t take it down myself,” the girl said. The girl’s mother asked that her daughter remain anonymous, afraid for her daughter’s safety at school.
Concerns brought by parents
Doug Mirts, Hickman athletic and activities director, and Brotemarkle were unaware of the video until asked about it Friday morning. Jeffers said concerns about the police behavior were brought to him by parents.
On Thursday, police began an investigation into the fight. Brotemarkle was at Hickman on Friday morning around 9:30.
Hickman staff were notified through an e-mail about the investigation and the video, Jeffers said.
The cause of the fight has not been revealed, but it is rumored to be related to a longtime dispute between two students that has lasted more than a year, said Magruder.
Two officers, Sgt. Alan Mitchell and Brotemarkle, responded. Assistant Principal Denise Herndon also responded. Officer Shelly Johnson was on the east side of the building and responded after the fight broke out, Brotemarkle said.
Typically, there are two resource officers at Hickman. There is an additional officer during lunch because students have off-campus lunch and it is a high-traffic time.
Fights at Hickman
Morgan Buscher, a junior, said fights at Hickman happen “pretty often.”
“We usually have one or two big fights every year and then a few scuffles every now and then,” she said.
A big fight usually involves a couple of officers separating students, Buscher said.
“It’s basically like a bar fight, and then their friends come and back them up,” she said.
The big fights that occur during a school year are ones students talk about years later, Buscher said, such as a fight in the Hickman main office last year that resulted in the arrests of eight people.
Buscher, who saw neither the video nor the fight, said school administrators and teachers didn’t speak to students about Wednesday’s incident. She said they usually send home a note to parents if someone brings a weapon.
'Forget it and move on'
Buscher said one of her friends told her on Wednesday that she had seen the fight at lunch, but they didn’t talk about it. “People just forget it and move on, and that’s basically what happened the other day,” she said.
While Buscher said the violence itself is a problem, “I don’t think it occurs more often than at any other high school.”
Morgan’s mom, Kathy Buscher, said it’s something that concerns her. Her older daughter graduated from Hickman in 2007.
“Both of them have said there’s fights there all the time,” Kathy Buscher said.
Many of the fights aren’t reported to parents, she said, because there is no formal communication from the school unless it’s a major fight, in which case parents receive a letter or a phone call. On Friday, the Buschers received a prerecorded phone message from Jeffers explaining that there had been a fight, that the fight was displayed on YouTube and that there would be an investigation.
“As a parent, you’re always concerned about their safety,” Kathy Buscher said. “With all the increase in violence, it’s always there in the back of your mind.”
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