COLUMBIA — On Wednesday, the Citizens Police Review Board plans to discuss whether it should dismiss complaints filed against police officers if they leave the force before a case's resolution.
As it stands, when an officer leaves the police department, any case the board is hearing involving that officer effectively ends, said board chairwoman Ellen LoCurto-Martinez. Under the board's ordinance, it can only suggest punishment for officers to the police chief, which means when an officer leaves, the board's "hands are tied," she said.
Wednesday's discussion comes after Officer Chris Hessenflow, the subject of an ongoing Citizens Police Review Board investigation, announced plans of leaving the Columbia Police Department. His departure means an end to the complaint against him, LoCurto-Martinez said.
"What do we do? Do we agree with the ordinance? Do we not agree with it? Should we change it? What do we think?" she said.
The complaint stemmed from an encounter at the Ultra Mart 3, 2102 Paris Road, between David Riley, an area car salesman, and Hessenflow, according to a previous Missourian article. Police said Riley cussed at Hessenflow, who was working undercover with a teenager to see if the gas station was selling alcohol to minors, and demanded his wallet.
Ricky Gurley, a private investigator whom Riley hired to look into the incident, said in a surveillance video he obtained from the store, Hessenflow is seen drawing his gun on Riley. He said Riley is seen getting on his hands and knees.
About two seconds later, the video shows Hessenflow kicking Riley so hard that he rolls onto his back, Gurley said.
A statement released by the police department states Riley was not compliant with Hessenflow's commands to stay on the ground and any injuries he obtained were from resisting arrest.
Adam Dowling, Riley's attorney, said these injuries included a broken arm, damage to one of his eyes and a concussion. He said they constituted the use of excessive force.
After an internal police investigation confirmed that Hessenflow acted appropriately, Riley decided to take his case up with the review board.
Since Hessenflow is leaving the force, Dowling said he and his client are pursuing other options.
"That's something we're still deciding — how to proceed from here, what we're going to do ultimately, as far as what action we are going to take against the city." he said, "As far as within the citizens review board framework, I don't think there's any further option to us."