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Police determine no officers took part in golf tournament misconduct

Thursday, August 30, 2012 | 1:09 p.m. CDT; updated 5:14 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 30, 2012

COLUMBIA — An internal investigation has determined that no Columbia Police Department employees took Jell-O shots off women's breasts at a June golf tournament.

The investigation by the department's internal affairs division concluded that female employees from Truman's Bar and Grill had served shots off their breasts at the Columbia Police Officers Association golf tournament on June 11, according to a police news release. Police Department employees, however, did not participate, the investigation found. 

The division interviewed 95 people, including 23 Columbia police officers, who were at the A.L. Gustin Golf Course for the tournament. 

The investigation began after several Columbia news outlets received an anonymous letter asserting that female employees from Truman's Bar and Grill at the tournament "were clothed in bikini bottoms only" and that "Jell0-O shots were served directly off of their bare breasts," according to previous Missourian reports.

In July, the officers association released results from its independent investigation. The association determined that the female employees had been topless but did not address the allegations involving the shots, according to previous Missourian reports

According to the association's report, no Missouri laws were broken. Only about 15 percent of the tournament's golfers were police officers, according to previous reports. 

Columbia police officials said they would not comment further on the incident because it's a personnel matter, and Chief Ken Burton would not be available for comment, Sgt. Jill Schlude said in an email.

Supervising editor is Alison Matas.


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Comments

Harold Sutton August 30, 2012 | 2:10 p.m.

Once again attempts being made to smear law enforcement officers with a wide brush. If there were actual evidence such as video or still pictures, then why were they not brought forth by those who were making the allegations and inuendos.

People who try to imply that they are legitiment news reporters should be held accountable to the highest degree and punished severely by law for false statements.

The rights of Freedom of speech and the Press is protectecd by the Constitution. Lying is not!!!

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin August 30, 2012 | 2:34 p.m.

I want to report two recent observations of Columbia Police Department officers on the job.

Maybe "T" is a lucky department letter, because both officers have lots of T's in their names: Tim Thomason, who runs the crime free housing program; and T. Timmerman, a beat officer working the First Ward the day I called.

Officer Thomason and Officer Timmerman handled different situations involving extremely volatile people with diplomacy, dignity, and effectiveness. They were firm but empathetic; good listeners; and gave sound counsel.

They calmed the situations down, resolved the issues, and represented both the department and City Hall well.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 30, 2012 | 3:29 p.m.

Harold, where's the lie? Apparently there were topless waitresses and jello shots were served. I don't recall anyone saying that police officers were involved, but it was a CPOA-sponsored event.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor August 30, 2012 | 4:05 p.m.

I am from the show me state. I want to see video proof that it was not an officer taking those shots ;-)

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 30, 2012 | 4:42 p.m.

The fun question is "Who were the other 85%?"

(Report Comment)
Harold Sutton August 30, 2012 | 7:26 p.m.

Read it again, John, and again and again!!! Forth paragraph down, the "anonymous letter"!!!

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 30, 2012 | 8:32 p.m.

Yo Harold, read and comprehend the second paragraph, the one where CPD says that the allegations in the letter did happen. The first paragraph says that no officer was involved in the activity, but the second shows that it did occur with non-CPD officers.

(Report Comment)
Harold Sutton August 30, 2012 | 9:09 p.m.

John...l
The "anonymous letter" and the subsequent "publishing and rumormongering"" was intended to plant the thinking that CPD personel were involved. Allegations and inuendos!!! Typical political type smears.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 30, 2012 | 9:23 p.m.

The "anonymous letter" and the subsequent "publishing and rumormongering"" was intended to plant the thinking that CPD personel were involved.
___________________

Agree.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 30, 2012 | 9:59 p.m.

Maybe it was. And yet, the facts alleged by the letter, that you claimed were bogus in your initial comment, were verified by internal affairs and CPOA. Have you read the release that says CPD officers are held to a higher standard, even off-duty, and that is why there was an investigation? The letter writer may have intended it as a smear on CPD, but that backfired on them I'm happy to say.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 30, 2012 | 10:43 p.m.

Question: Is it common (and proper) for news media to report details from an anonymous letter about....*anything*?

What did the Missourian know, and when did it know it?

Or did they not know at all, except what the letter noted?

Which brings me back to my original question.

(Report Comment)
Scott Swafford August 31, 2012 | 9:45 a.m.

Mr. Williams,

The Missourian has no blanket policy on how to handle anonymous letters. In this case, we knew nothing about the allegations until we received the letter. Our reporter, Zac Boesch, provided a copy of the letter to the Columbia Police Officers Association and to Police Chief Ken Burton. He interviewed CPOA member John Dye, Chief Burton, the manager of Truman's Bar and Grill and the head golf pro at A.L. Gustin. We decided to do our initial report only after Dye said CPOA would investigate and after Burton said he would ask Internal Affairs to do the same.

Scott Swafford
Missourian city editor

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 31, 2012 | 1:39 p.m.

Scott: I'm surprised you have no policy on this. You have a strong suite of policies concerning the physical description of criminals for which you at least have partial information.

Here, you only had a letter and a promised investigation.

Did you make news? Or just follow it? A rather fine line, if you ask me...especially for an anonymous letter. How many other anonymous letters do you get each year that are deemed bogus versus worthy of followup? How do you decide which is which? What are your criteria? Newsworthiness? Titillation factor? Sales potential? Being first?

The whole issue turned out mostly truthful, although your first reports certainly cast a bad light on our police officers. I agree with Harold that the initial reports "...[planted] the thinking that CPD personel were involved." That's certainly what I thought.

I think you eventually got the story right, but you caused harm doing it.

PS: Did you ever publish the anonymous letter? I'd certainly like to know what was in it. Mainly I'd like to know if officers were directly accused in the letter, or if the letter simply a report that jello-on-breasts hors dourves were served ad libitum at the CPOA function?

(Report Comment)
Scott Swafford August 31, 2012 | 11:31 p.m.

Michael,

You're asking good questions, the sorts of questions we asked ourselves as we did our reporting on this story. Did we "make news" by sharing the letter with the Police Department? I don't think so. We felt that if we were going to ask questions about the matter, Chief Burton and the folks at the CPOA deserved to see the letter that prompted those questions.

Although we interviewed all the parties before publishing anything, our early conversations led us to conclude that this probably would be news only if the Police Department and/or the CPOA decided to investigate. The definitive responses we got from both Burton and the CPOA -- that the alleged behavior would not be condoned and that both would investigate -- struck us as newsworthy. Titillation? Sales? No factors at all. Being first? If that had been a factor, we wouldn't have spent five days doing interviews and discussing the matter before we published a word.

Also, it would be hard to have a blanket policy on anonymous letters. First, we get very few of them. Second, you never know what an anonymous letter might contain. That's something that inherently must be considered case by case.

Rest assured that it was not the Missourian's intent to smear the Police Department. Why would the Missourian want to do that? If smearing police were our motive, we'd have published a story about the letter as soon as we got it, whether the department responded or not. We didn't do that.

I think we played this one straight up, and we thought carefully about how to do so. All that said, I appreciate you pushing back. It makes us think harder. Thanks for that.

Scott Swafford
Missourian city editor

(Report Comment)
Scott Swafford August 31, 2012 | 11:47 p.m.

By the way, Michael, we did not publish the anonymous letter, given that we couldn't verify on our own at the time whether the accusations were true. The letter did not specifically name or accuse any officer or anyone else involved in the golf tournament.

Scott Swafford
Missourian city editor

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 1, 2012 | 8:35 a.m.

"...we did not publish the anonymous letter, given that we couldn't verify on our own at the time whether the accusations were true."
_________________

The letter proved true, so now would be a good time to publish it.

Thank you for the detailed explanations.

PS: I think all of us understand this was news ONLY because the event was CPOA-sponsored and officers might have been involved. This would have been a non-story if the same thing had happened at a Missourian golf tournament with Rosman, Robertson, and Kennedy slurping jello shots off perky breasts. (my eyes! my eyes!). I certainly hold our officers to a higher standard and it's fair that the media do the same. It's also fair to expect a public apology when initial reports DO imply a negative to the citizenry...that eventually proves untrue. There's a big difference between saying "Here's what actually happened" versus "We were wrong."

(Report Comment)
Harold Sutton September 1, 2012 | 11:51 a.m.

Thanks Michael, for the p.s. above.

But... like the vast majority of all retractions or corrections, they are in small print buried somewhere on seldom read or noticed pages.

And...the damage already done.

(Report Comment)

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