COLUMBIA – Parents and concerned citizens are organizing a protest of the Columbia Police Department’s decision not to remove resource officer Mark Brotemarkle from his post at Hickman High School.
The demonstration will take place at noon Monday at the department’s headquarters at 600 E. Walnut St.
Gene Robertson, a retired MU professor who is helping to organize the protest, said the demonstration is intended to show the community’s “outrage at the behavior of the police administration.”
Brotemarkle temporarily left his position on Oct. 17 after a video was released that showed him breaking up a fight at the school on Oct. 15. His supervisors returned Brotemarkle to his post the following Monday, Oct. 20, according to Missourian archives.
The video showed Brotemarkle throwing Hickman student Diamond Thrower, a sophomore, to the ground and handcuffing her. Thrower had been attempting to break up a fight between two girls, but she was not personally involved. Thrower was taken to the hospital later that night for neck and back problems and did not return to school for the rest of the week.
The Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit is investigating whether Brotemarkle used excessive force when breaking up the fight.
Robertson said he thinks the police erred in allowing Brotemarkle to return to his position at Hickman before concluding its investigation.
“He should have been removed until such time that the inquiry has judged him to be innocent,” Robertson said. He said if the investigation determines that Brotemarkle was at fault, then his presence at Hickman during the investigation will not have been in the best interest of the students.
“If they prove he did wrong, then they have done wrong,” Robertson said.
According to the Columbia Police Department Standard Operational Guidelines, internal investigations are to be completed within 35 days of the complaint, unless the Professional Standards Unit commander or the police chief grants a time extension.
On Friday, Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner said he still expected the investigation to take one month.
The guidelines also state that putting an officer on paid administrative leave during an internal investigation is an option of the police chief, to be used when appropriate during criminal or serious misconduct cases. Administrative leave is only mandatory if the employee was “intoxicated while on-duty or is otherwise unfit for duty.”
“It’s kind of a case-by-case basis,” Dresner said.
Dresner said he did not know about plans to hold a demonstration in front of the police headquarters until Friday afternoon.
“I guess it’s democracy in action,” Dresner said. “We respect their right to protest.”