COLUMBIA — A letter from the NAACP is the latest voice in the community debate about the actions of Columbia police resource officer Mark Brotemarkle at Hickman High School.
Mary Ratliff, president of both the Columbia unit and the Missouri State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, sent a letter to the Columbia Police Department, Columbia Public Schools and the U.S. Department of Justice after three complaints lodged against Brotemarkle were determined unfounded in an internal police department investigation.
On Oct. 17, a Hickman High School student posted a video on YouTube of Brotemarkle breaking up a fight on Oct. 15 between two girls and spinning a student, Diamond Thrower, to the ground.
It was later discovered that Thrower was not involved in the fight, and three complaints were lodged against Brotemarkle. The police conducted an investigation about the complaints and determined on Dec. 4 they were unfounded.
Ratliff's letter objects to the police findings, calls Brotemarkle's actions "objectionable" and restates the NAACP's position that he should be reassigned.
The letter says that the Police Department's findings have "left a sour taste in the mouths of those who had hoped the new administration would do better toward healing than the last administration.”
Ratliff, who said in an interview that she was informed of the incident by a community member, met with the Police Department and school superintendents while the investigation was being conducted. She said she was upset with the Police Department’s decision to keep Brotemarkle in the same position during the investigation.
Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner, who received the letter, said, “I think her reaction is as I might have predicted. We’re not seeing eye to eye on everything. We’ll try to continue to have as open and productive a dialogue as we can.”
In an interview, Ratliff pointed to one reason for her letter: “I still contend that folks don’t like to talk about the race issue.”
“Had (Thrower) been a young white female, the community would have been up in arms, demanding not just that Brotemarkle be reassigned, but dismissed.”
Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Wanda Brown and Interim Superintendent James Ritter declined to comment on the letter. Both said they found no need to express their opinions since Ratliff was expressing hers.
Ratliff said she is being consulted by Bill Whiccomb in the human relations department of the U.S. Department of Justice regarding further action.