COLUMBIA — Mark Brotemarkle returned Monday to Hickman High School as the school resource officer because according to Columbia Police Department policy, officers are to remain in their positions unless there is a serious incident, such as an officer shooting, Capt. Zim Schwartze said.
"In this particular situation with the information I had at the time, the allegations of excessive force does not fall under that," Schwartze said.
Brotemarkle left Hickman on Friday after a video surfaced on the video-sharing Web site YouTube, showing his involvement in breaking up a fight between several Hickman students on Oct. 15. Later that day, interim Police Chief Tom Dresner announced that the Police Department would conduct an investigation of the disturbance.
Also on Friday, Hickman Principal Mike Jeffers said he was told by the Police Department that Brotemarkle would not be returning as the resource officer until the investigation is complete.
Brotemarkle returned to Hickman on Monday morning. The decision was made in discussion between Schwartze, Sgt. Eric White, who is Brotemarkle's supervisor, and interim Police Chief Tom Dresner.
"We have to do what is best for the school and community," Schwartze said.
The Police Department's Professional Standards Unit is investigating the use of excessive force by Brotemarkle in the fight. Schwartze said she is not aware of any other complaints that have been filed against Brotemarkle.
"We have tried to become very transparent and open with people," Schwartze said. "I hope that people don't believe rumors and third- or fourth-party person information or what they saw in a two-second video."
It's still unclear how long the investigation will take. The Professional Standards Unit is still conducting interviews and examining evidence, Schwartze said.
"We appreciate the large amount of support from people through phone calls, e-mails and even text messages on how we are handling the situation," Schwartze said. "We appreciate the widespread support of the community."
But some community members say that Brotemarkle's return to Hickman while the investigation is still under way is cause for concern.
"It could make students unsafe," said Gene Robertson, a retired MU faculty member whose children graduated from Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools. "I don't think we should take that kind of a chance. It appears to me that by placing the officer back into the situation that soon, it indicates you are unilaterally exonerating him."
Robertson said that he and Doug Simmons of Minority Men's Network have met with Schwartze to discuss Brotemarkle's return to Hickman.
"I think the police were forthright and honest in terms of their responding to our questions and being willing to meet with us," Robertson said. "They thought they were acting in the best interest in a situation. I, however, believe it was acting in the police's best interest in a situation where students should come first."
Brotemarkle has also been accused by several Hickman parents of targeting African-American students. Mary Ratliff, president of the Columbia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, declined to comment. She expects to release a formal statement within days, she said.