COLUMBIA — Former Columbia police Officer Rob Sanders, who was fired last month for excessive use of force against a prisoner in a holding cell, has become the subject of two more Internal Affairs investigations.
One investigation centers on Sanders' use of force against a 17-year-old male in a holding cell in the early hours of July 17. Video surveillance tapes show Sanders pushing the young man to the floor, dragging him by his T-shirt collar to the cell's back wall and handcuffing him. Sanders then used a second pair of handcuffs to chain the man to a metal ring on the concrete floor of the cell.
Police spokeswoman Sgt. Jill Wieneke said Friday that the prisoner in the video had been arrested on suspicion of first-degree robbery. Sanders responded to a report near Old 63 and Broadway, where a man told police he had been robbed by four men who had taken his wallet and about $60 before driving away.
Wieneke said Sanders saw a car matching the vague description the man gave and pulled it over. She said he found a pellet gun, and the men in the car were taken to the police department for booking.
Sanders' direct supervisor, a sergeant, reviewed the surveillance tape and took it to Internal Affairs investigators.
"Because there was a use of force, there was already a mandatory review of that incident," Wieneke said. "A lot of this was already in the pipes somewhere."
Wieneke said using the metal rings in holding cells is common practice when prisoners become unruly — she herself has used them to restrain people. But the rings have recently been removed from the cells, and officers will soon receive training about how to effectively handle prisoners in holding cells.
"We're looking at some alternative ways to handle those things," Wieneke said.
Wieneke said the department is taking cues from how the Boone County Sheriff’s Department handles prisoners and seeking tips from other cities with similar-sized police departments.
The second pending Internal Affairs investigation of Sanders involves a video made by Citizens for Justice, a group that aims to serve as a resource for "recognizing, acknowledging, and curbing misconduct in the local legal system," according to its website. The Missourian recently published a story about the group and its founder, Matthew Akins.
Wieneke said that when she saw a video of Sanders stopping Akins, there were aspects of it she found "concerning."
"It is my job as a supervisor to refer things if I think there might be a policy violation," she said.
Wieneke showed the video to the chief, who brought the incident to the attention of Internal Affairs. Wieneke said the group hasn't filed a formal complaint with the department.
Sanders has been advised against commenting about the internal affairs investigations by his attorney, Scott Jansen, because of pending charges by a special prosecutor assigned to his case. Amy Sanders, Rob Sanders' wife, said her husband is appealing his termination suit against the department.
Amy Sanders said she hadn't heard about the two pending investigations involving her husband.
"He's terminated," she said. "I don't know why they continued to seek out to defame him."