Columbia's Citizens Police Review Board endorses decisions of police chief

Wednesday, May 9, 2012 | 11:15 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Citizens Police Review Board voted unanimously Wednesday to accept the decision of Police Chief Ken Burton regarding the appeal of Gregory Rodgers, who alleged that unnecessary force was used during his arrest.

Board member Jerry Kennett motioned that the board close Rodgers' case and accept Burton's decision that the officers weren't involved in misconduct.

Rodgers' case was initially reviewed at the board's April 11 meeting, where members examined documents and tape from police dashboard cameras. Rodgers' complaint claimed he was pulled from his car and injured in the process. 
After the initial review, the officers involved, witnesses from the scene and Rodgers were invited to attend Wednesday night's meeting to present additional testimony, including medical records and video footage Rodgers said he had. Rodgers did not attend the board's full review of the complaint on Wednesday.

The board unanimously agreed to Kennett's motion.

The board also held an initial review of two new complaints filed by Columbia residents:

  • The board voted on the appeal of Marlon Jordan, which was based solely on documents they had from Columbia police. Jordan didn't attend the initial review of his case and could not offer any comment. Kennett motioned that the board accept Burton's decision that Jordan was treated fairly and close that appeal, as well. The board unanimously agreed.
  • The board made an initial review of a complaint by Sylvia Brown and invited Burton to explain his decision either by memorandum or presentation at its next meeting. Brown filed a complaint stating that when she reported a cellphone robbery, Officer Wendy Stokes and Sgt. Joe Bernhard took no action even though, Brown alleges, there is surveillance footage of the robbery happening. 

    An Internal Affairs Unit report exonerated Bernhard but not Stokes. According to the board's report, Burton agreed with Internal Affair's decision until having a conversation with the police officers, after which, he decided to exonerate both Stokes and Bernhard.

    The board has requested that information from the meeting be presented at or before their next meeting to determine why Burton deviated from the recommendation of Internal Affairs.

Additionally, as part of the Mediation Task Force report, board member Betty Wilson asked Rose Wibbenmeyer, assistant city counselor, about the status of the board's request that a new full-time position be created for a mediator to assist communication between the police, the board and residents who have complaints about officers' conduct. 

Wibbenmeyer said the city manager's office has not put any money for the funding of such a position into the yearly budget. Wibbenmeyer said that the board's budget includes $3,950 for contractual and miscellaneous needs. Those funds are not enough to cover the cost of a full-time mediator, which is why the board is going to the City Council with their request.

It would be unusual for the council to create a position unless the board shows that a full-time mediator would be more cost-effective than using the already-approved $3,950 to contract mediation, Wibbenmeyer said.

Board member Stephen Alexander suggested the board share the cost of funding a full-time mediator with the police department, which is also involved in the mediation process. The police department could benefit from a full-time mediator because it could help reduce their caseload as well.

Alexander suggested that police and the board work together and apply mediation to current cases to prove it could be cost-effective.

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