Kespohl to propose liability policy for sale of police dog

Monday, October 17, 2011 | 4:39 p.m. CDT; updated 7:33 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 18, 2011

COLUMBIA — Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl thinks he's found a way to allow fired Columbia police officer Rob Sanders and his wife, Amy, to buy a police dog without exposing the city to liability.

Kespohl said he will propose an agreement during Monday's City Council meeting that would set up a $1 million liability policy, which the Sanderses would pay the premiums on as long as they had the dog, Fano.

Rob Sanders was fired from the Columbia Police Department in September after an internal affairs investigation into his use of force against an inmate in a holding cell.

At the City Council's Oct. 3 meeting, his wife pleaded with the council to let her and her husband buy the dog. Friends of the couple also expressed support for permitting the sale and had raised money to buy the dog.

But Police Chief Ken Burton said that selling the dog could be a liability for the city. In a memo to the council last Thursday, City Manager Mike Matthes recommended against selling the dog for the same reason. 

Kespohl said that although it's true that Fano is a trained police dog, he also understands that the Sanderses consider the dog a family pet.

He said he sees a liability policy as a way to place the dog with the family and still protect the city.

Under Kespohl's proposal, which he said he talked about with "a friend in the insurance business," the Sanderses would purchase the policy, and the city would be listed as the second insured. The family would have to pay $1,500 a year for the lifetime of the dog. They would also have to buy the dog at the price proposed by the city.

According to the city's risk management department, it would cost $10,800 to replace the animal, Burton said previously.

The agreement wouldn't completely remove liability from the city, Kespohl said. But if the dog were to hurt someone, and if that person tried to hold the city responsible, the city would be protected. If a person were to win a lawsuit related to Fano, the city wouldn't be financially responsible, Kespohl said.

He also spoke with Matthes about the idea, and Matthes said to bring it up at the meeting. Kespohl said Matthes told him that they would have to make clear the fact that this proposal "has nothing to do with (Sanders') job."

The council is expected to take up the question of Fano at Monday night's meeting.

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