Hickman resource officer under investigation over action in fight

Saturday, October 18, 2008 | 9:23 p.m. CDT; updated 11:22 a.m. CST, Monday, November 17, 2008
This video was taken on a cell phone by a student at Hickman High School on Wednesday. The video was originally posted on YouTube, but it was later removed. WARNING: This video contains profane language.
Editing by Sarah Orscheln

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.

Statement from Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner

TYPE OF INCIDENT: Hickman High School Disturbance

CASE #: 2008-13520

 DATE & TIME OCCURRED: 10/15/08 @ 12:00 pm


INCIDENT LOCATION: Hickman High School


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

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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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Charles Dudley Jr October 18, 2008 | 9:59 p.m.

I still stand by my statement I posted about this same subject/issue and nothing will change my mind about how I feel about this ongoing problem.

What is all the crying by these parents and children? What about that poor adult lady who was slammed to the ground as well in the video was she a teacher or? Is she ok because she went down real hard.
These parents and children have no reason to cry or complain one bit as if they raised their children to act not like idiots and gang banging wannabee thugs in public then they might actually have a point.
Then they are crying against racism as well? Oh nice trump card to pull out when you can see in the video it is the African American children right in the middle of it all. The racism card is a total failure on their part. Even the one girl crying to mommy on her cell phone is a joke!
The points are that it is obvious the parents of these children involved in any way shape or form in this problem and all on going problems at Hickman High are obviously failing at the art of parenting their children or we would not be seeing so many problems.
It is the parents responsibility from the time those children are born until they leave the house to go out onto their own into the world to raise,nurture and guide those children in a proper upbringing in life to ensure those children have the proper tools to be responsible citizens not to teach their children or allow them to become gang banging little wanna be thugs on the streets or in our schools.
Hickman High School is not some off beat form of the "Sparta Scenario" by far nor should be and congratulations to the Columbia Police Department personnel for being there on the job and taking that situation in control,hand cuffing and planting those responsible on their butts on the floor and doing what had to be done. This is outrageous though that they had to go to these extremes in a educational institution in our modern day and age. As the last poster so pointed out it could have been a knife fight or a gun fight or a razor blade fight or who knows and then what? Teachers should not have to go to their jobs they love to do in fear of these types of things. Period.
Those kids are also lucky the police did not deploy pepper spray as well. Then they would have something to cry over. So the kids got roughed up well what were they themselves doing at that moment? Dancing with the stars or some B.S.?
The final point is this all comes back to the responsibility of the parents in raising their children properly.

(Report Comment)
marvin saunders October 19, 2008 | 5:34 a.m.

It was black kids fighting for heavens sakes! If it was white kids nobody cries racism. Why is it everytime a black person gets into trouble they start crying racism but when any other group gets into trouble,that group doesn't say a word about racism!Iam white and when i was young i got into alot of trouble not once did i cry racism,why you picking on me (my father was a cop)and yes i did get slapped around by the police and sheriff departments.I didnt cry to my parents or the newspapers.Grow-up if you see two people fighting you don't need to stop it.They pay other people to do that.Racism is too easy of a word to use and it is used too much.Now Hickman and city of Columbia look for everybodys favorite Lawsuit-Please just say no

(Report Comment)
James Smith October 19, 2008 | 6:23 p.m.

A proven reason why we need school vouchers.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 19, 2008 | 6:48 p.m.

John Fabsits It is also a fact there needs to be some form of accountability for the parents of these kids as well.

(Report Comment)
Marlon Jordan October 20, 2008 | 8:00 a.m.

Accountability, for ones actions or choices, without using criminal thinking patterns and tactics to avoid respondsibility. Maybe the mentor needs to stop trying to override the childs parenting or be the parent.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 20, 2008 | 2:54 p.m.

Shame on the parents and teenagers, from Hickman, for signing a petition to ruin the life of a dedicated, capable and honest employee of the Columbia Police Dept.
Captain Dresner should ignore any "petition" signed by non-voting minors from the school that officer Brotemarkle protects and realize that those who wish to blame "the establishment and authorities," of any wrong doing, are just trying to shift attention away from their own misconduct and bad behaviors.
If Captain Dresner moves officer Brotemarkle to another assignment, this will only send a negative message to those who appreciate good police response/enforcement, among rowdy teenagers, in close quarters at school. It may also hamper the next officers ability to do their job, by making them hesitate when action is in order. We don't want our officers to be afraid to do their job because of "pressure" from parents who choose to blame others for their chilren's attitudes and behaviors during school and during off-campus lunch time, do we?
I encourage all law-abiding, concerned Hickman parents bussiness owners around the school's perimeter, as well as concerned neighbors to write to our mayor and Captain Dresnar in support of officer Brotemarkle and show those children and parents, who are quick to play the race card, that it's an outdated ploy and not an accusation we appreciate or accept!
Officer Brotemarkle did a good job in a bad situation. He didn't cause the fight and he behaved in an exemplary fashion.
Hickman staff should also come out for his support and take a stand against children and parents who choose not to do the decent thing. To accept the fact that their children are out of control and those who try to teach and protect these kids from each other have a very challenging and difficult job. Could any of them do any better? I doubt it.

(Report Comment)
Michael Vaughn October 20, 2008 | 3:25 p.m.

Did you not see the same video clip I seen. I understand that the officer was doing his job, but dealing with female children there was no need for the excessive force used to separate those students. Black or white it doesn't make a difference no child should be manhandled in that matter. I remember seeing two officers in that clip and the other officer he wasn't that aggressive. Stop and think how would you feel if it were your child slammed on the hard tile floor. You always tell your children to listen to what you have to say but there comes a time when you need to listen to your children. You should remember what it was like as a child trying to get your parent to listen to you when you had a problem at home or school. Don't make the same mistake that many parents do. To get respect you need to give respect!

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 20, 2008 | 3:29 p.m.

I am in 100% agreement with ray shapiro and I also stand by my statement above posted on this column.

The final point is this all comes back to the responsibility of the parents in raising their children properly.

To think anything else is just so much excuses and complacency.

(Report Comment)
James Smith October 20, 2008 | 10:28 p.m.

How can the schools hold the kids accountable when the parents don't hold their own kids accountable?

(Report Comment)
Marlon Jordan October 27, 2008 | 4:43 a.m.

Marvin Why is it everytime a black person gets into trouble they start crying racism but when any other group gets into trouble,that group doesn't say a word

Read your constitution the answer you are looling for may be found there. I didn't know that i was in a protected class or group until i read it. I don't hear any voices in any predominately African counrties or states, crying racism either when those folks have mistreatments and misunderstandings between each other. LETS BOTH WORK TOGETHER TO CHANGE OUR CONSTITUTION, I LOVE IT, BUT I WANT YOU TO LOVE IT TOO! I DON'T MIND BEING CALLED A NUT, CRAZY, IN FACT I AM GOING TO CHANGE MY USER NAME TO SUMBAG JORDAN. I WANT ALL THE NEGATIVE DEROGATORY NAMES YOU CAN THINK OF. I'LL PROUDLY CARRY THOSE LABLES. What do you think people will call us if we attempt to change our laws?Can you handle that?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 27, 2008 | 5:33 a.m.

John Fabsits if you read on one of the other threads about the programs I presented to help the CPS to hold parents and lids accountable then we might see some progress instead of the regression we are facing now.

(Report Comment)

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